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Sister Annette Kestel

Love One Another

The mission of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Hiawatha, Iowa, states in part that parishioners “will be known for service to individuals, family and society through hospitality, education and acts of charity.” 

It is no wonder, then, that Sister Annette Kestel fits into this parish like hand-in-glove. Her very person exudes warmth, friendliness, helpfulness and kindness, all part of the virtue of hospitality. Serving as the pastoral associate at this relatively new parish, Sister Annette has multiple responsibilities that place her in the heart of service and of establishing links with individuals and families in order to live out, as directed by the mission statement “the loving service of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton,” the American saint for whom the parish is named.

“Since I have been at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish I have had wonderful opportunities to meet and work with many people. I hope that I make a difference by assisting parishioners in their significant times of need and times of celebration,” says Sister.

Sister Annette learned these essential virtues of hospitality from her parents as she and her two brothers grew up on their farm in Schaller, Iowa. These qualities were so well instilled in her that during her young years she often thought about becoming a religious sister. But first she attended the Iowa State University with the intention of preparing to be a teacher, a natural profession for someone of such qualities. But God’s plans are not to be thwarted. On campus Annette met Presentation Sister Kathleen Dolphin, campus minister, who encouraged her early desires about religious life and thus, after more discernment, Annette entered the formation program of the Sisters of the Presentation in Dubuque in 1981.

After her initial formation years were completed, Sister Annette began teaching, first in Key West, Iowa, and then in Farley, Iowa. These were short-term preparations for her following 16 years at Newman Catholic Elementary School in Mason City, Iowa, where she taught second grade. During some of these 16 summers, Sister Annette earned a Master of Science in Education from the University of Dayton, a Catholic institution founded by the Society of Mary. 

After her stint at Mason City, Sister Annette completed a two-year Pastoral Ministry Degree Program at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. These degrees and her experience amply qualified her to become the associate director of faith formation and pastoral minister at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Today Sister Annette is full-time in pastoral ministry in this parish which, as all pastoral ministers know, means a wide variety of involvements.

Still using her education and theological backgrounds, Sister Annette helps with the RCIA program in the parish. But on the more strictly “pastoral” side, she coordinates Communion ministry to the sick, homebound, Care Center and Hospice Center. She also visits the sick and homebound, and is a staff liaison to the senior parishioners and to the Parish Life and Liturgy Committees. She works with marriage preparation, marriage enrichment and family enrichment programs in the parish. Sister Annette also registers new parishioners, which directly introduces them to the hospitable spirit of the parish.

“As a parish we to try to make each person who walks through our doors feel welcome and cared for,” states Sister Annette. “Personally I strive to do this in the specific areas for which I am responsible, especially when I am registering people in the parish, helping couples prepare for marriage, assisting in our RCIA process and caring for our sick and homebound parishioners.”

“Our foundress, Nano Nagle, saw the needs present around her and found ways to help those in need experience God’s presence in their lives,” continues Sister Annette. “As pastoral associate at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish I try to follow Nano’s example by trying to address parishioners’ needs and helping parishioners grow in their awareness of God’s presence and care.”

And yes, there really is some time for her own spiritual, physical and personal interest needs. Sister Annette loves to walk. She also enjoys needlework, sewing and reading. She provides time for prayer each day, which, of course, keeps her connected to the Ultimate Host, Jesus Christ. And in between times, she keeps good track of her elderly mother and her two brothers, all of whom live in Storm Lake, Iowa. Sister Annette is particularly thrilled that her nephew and his wife have moved to Cedar Rapids, making connecting with family even more possible.

It is not coincidental that the charism of the Sisters of the Presentation is hospitality. While Sister Annette was schooled in this virtue from her childhood, she also incorporates her religious formation in this virtue, making St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish blessed to have this Presentation sister in their midst.

Left Photo: Sister Annette Kestel converses with her community during Community Days.

Right Photo: Sister Annette Kestel (left) enjoys the company of Sister Beth Driscoll and Sister Jessi Beck.

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