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Sister Beth Kress

Goes Where the Needs Call

To say that Sister Beth Kress is a gifted woman is to offer a big understatement! But one wouldn’t hear of her many gifts from Sister Beth. You would only know them by observation which allows the gifts to unfold.

Sister Beth and her younger sister, Jeanne, are the two children of Hugh and Betty Kress, now both deceased, but long-time residents of Dubuque and its neighbor, Frentress Lake. During the girls’ school years, the family belonged to Sacred Heart Parish and School, where Beth took violin lessons. She excelled, and, with the mentoring of her good teachers throughout school, she also developed her innate talent for writing. She actively uses both skills today. Holding dear her love of music, and treasuring the years of lessons which her parents provided for her, she is today a member of the Dubuque Community String Orchestra where she plays viola, and on occasion she plays violin for liturgies.

Sister Beth further honed her writing skills by acquiring two master’s degrees, one in journalism education from the University of Iowa, and a Master of Journalism degree in public relations from Louisiana State University, where she gained experience in reporting and publicity. 

Following in the footsteps of her late Presentation aunts, Sisters Virginia and Victoria Gereau, Sister Beth was a teacher for 20 years, serving at Newman High School in Mason City, Iowa, Columbus High School in Waterloo, Iowa, and St. Mary High School in Storm Lake, Iowa. She was also the director of religious education and the RCIA coordinator at the Church of the Nativity in Dubuque, for seven years. Commenting that she “really enjoyed the parish experience and working with families as we journeyed together in faith,” Sister Beth affirmed that the parish role built on her many wonderful years teaching in Catholic high schools and gave her the rich experience of multi-generational faith formation.

Sister Beth began her career in communications as a high school teacher of English, journalism, mass media and publications. Subsequently, she worked for 30 years with nonprofits including for Catholic schools and for women religious on regional, national and international levels. She served as a systems coordinator of public relations and telecommunications for the Dubuque Catholic school system; as the first coordinator for the International Presentation Association (1989-1995); and as the first coordinator of Communicators for Women Religious (CWR), a professional organization for enhancing the image and advancing the mission of women religious. A member of CWR since its founding in 1995, Sister Beth has served as a regional liaison and chair of the marketing committee and is presently treasurer and board member, as well as a member of the executive committee and the chair of the finance committee.

In 1993 she was a founding member of Sisters United News (SUN), a colloquium of professional communicators dedicated to publicizing the ministries and missions of Catholic sisters of the Upper Mississippi River Valley. Still active in this organization, Sister Beth states, “For me, SUN has been a school of collaboration, camaraderie and professional growth.” 

Currently Sister Beth is communications specialist for the Sisters of the Presentation, coordinating publicity and marketing for the Presentation Lantern Center. In this position she writes, edits and designs three newsletters per year; manages the website and social media accounts; writes publicity stories for various publications and markets; manages the Presentation Lantern section of the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque website, “Giving Center,” and assists the executive director and board with all external communications, public relations, advertising and fundraising pieces. She also writes and proofreads for the Presentation community publication, Presentation Doorways, and submits publicity pieces for the congregation, particularly the yearly jubilee stories for diocesan publications and “home-town” newspapers of the jubilarians. 

Additionally, she is the communication specialist for Hotel Hope in New Orleans, Louisiana, a ministry served by Sisters Mary Lou Specha and Julie Marsh that empowers those made homeless after Hurricane Katrina.

Of her writing, Sister Beth comments, “I have always loved to write. My grade school teachers gave me wonderful skill development and appreciation for good literature. In high school, I had really fine teachers, who gave me a taste for possible future careers in journalism. So much has mushroomed since the days of mostly print journalism, but my desire to always learn which began in high school has continued, and today I find myself in a ‘reverse mentoring’ relationship with many fine young communicators who also want to learn from those of us who are their elders.” 

But Sister Beth is not all about work! With her ready laugh, she is a great conversationalist, and loves spending time with extended family and friends, the sisters in her sacred circle group and with associates and sisters within her committee working on issues surrounding women, children and the indigenous. She also loves to swim and to bowl, and she especially enjoys being able to spend quiet time by the river or any body of water.

However, the last several years have not provided as much time for all those pleasures because Sister Beth added still another ministry to her résumé. She became a full-time family caregiver in 2000 when her mother began showing signs of dementia, eventually diagnosed as Alzheimer’s. This ministry involved not only the actual caregiving, but also making placement decisions for her mother, managing the family finances, including the eventual sale of their home, and overseeing a trust for her sister, Jeanne. “I am so grateful that I have had this privilege to walk with my mother and sister, and to have the tremendous support of the Presentation family to do so,” Sister Beth declares. 

This latest ministry reveals another side of Sister Beth, one of empathy, of respectful care, of judicious decision-making, and of great love. Yet, as she reflects on this time, she comments not on herself, but on her “growing respect and appreciation for all those involved in the care of another,” and she is “always grateful for their generous giving of their lives to this work.”

Most of us can hardly imagine crowding all of that activity into one entire lifetime, and yet Sister Beth remains “hard at it,” continuing all of these activities with zest and excellence, all as if it were part of a normal day for anyone! Sister Beth sets the goal high, but she does it without fanfare or self-seeking. She remains dedicated to family and community, and she brings honor to both. 

Left photo: Sisters Beth Kress and Corine Murray have worked together for many years at the Presentation Lantern Center in Dubuque, Iowa.

Right photo: Left to right: Sister Beth Kress enjoys spending time with her sister, Jeanne, at Sunnycrest Manor family nights and at their family home.

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