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Sister Sharon Kelchen

An Eye for Beauty

Change. Sister Sharon Kelchen knew a thing or two about change. As the first born of eight siblings, she lived in a family that changed with the birth of each new sister or brother. In her life on a farm in rural eastern Iowa, she was attuned to both the rhythm of daily life and the changing of the seasons. She had a keen eye for beauty in nature and learned about her connection to the Holy One who placed the stars in the night sky.

During her elementary school years, she took piano lessons and had a lifelong relationship with music, which provided many opportunities for her to express her creativity, enhance her ministries and develop lasting friendships.

Sister Sharon entered the Presentation community in the fall of 1964, in the midst of Vatican II, and negotiated the significant changes that followed, especially in areas of theology and the liturgy. After graduating from Clarke College in Dubuque with a degree in music, she taught music in the Farley-Bankston system, and later in Mason City, Sheldon, Key West and Algona, Iowa. She was a very creative teacher who enjoyed her students, helped them discover their talents and have fun with music. She also enhanced the liturgical celebrations in the parishes in which she served.

More change. Sister Sharon served as a principal in Farley and Storm Lake, both in Iowa, before moving to Chicago, Illinois, to serve as the liturgy coordinator at Our Lady of Guadalupe. She invited adult choirs from three parishes to sing together, a parish from the suburbs, one from an African-American community, and one from a Hispanic community, parishes where Presentation Sisters served. This venture that celebrated diversity was a great success.

In 1993 Sister Sharon returned to Dubuque to be the house coordinator at the motherhouse. For the next 10 years, she helped shepherd the community through major renovations in the building. She knew every nook and cranny. Beauty that we can see, both inside the building and in the landscaping, continue to reflect her special touch and green thumb.

After a well-earned sabbatical in 2004, she joined the team of the St. Elizabeth Pastorate, which includes Bankston, Epworth, Farley, Placid and Peosta in rural Dubuque County. As a minister of care, she often visited the grandparents of her former students.

Sister Sharon supported people through her music ministry with the adult choir, her piano and organ skills at parish liturgies, her planning and presiding at vigil services, and her coordinating funeral liturgies. Like in her previous ministry locations, Sister Sharon touched the lives of many with her gift of hospitality.

Sister Sharon also knew how to have fun. She was a golfer, a card player and enjoyed traveling. She warmed to a good book or movie. As an excellent cook, she could always be counted on to bring a fabulous dish to any potluck.

Sister Sharon was able to stay close to her siblings, many of whom lived in the area. She was often called on to provide the music for special occasions, family weddings for sisters and brothers and the next generation.

“To live is to change and to change often is to become more perfect,” states Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman. May Sister Sharon, a woman who lived through many changes, gently rest in heaven’s keep.

If you would like to make a memorial gift in memory of Sister Sharon, click here.

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