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Paynesville Press - March 12, 2003

Catholic nun retires after six decades of service

By Michael Jacobson

Sister Petronilla Lieser - submitted photo Sister Petronilla Lieser, who grew up on a farm in Zion Township, retired in January after 62 years of service as a Benedictine nun.

Sister Petronilla, whose given name was Cecilia, was one of ten children born to the late Joseph and Theresa Lieser on their farm between Lake Henry and St. Martin.

Sister Petronilla moved to Idaho in 1938, served two years as a novice, and made her final profession in 1940. At that time, Stearns County was 96 percent Catholic, said Sister Petronilla, while Idaho was only four percent Catholic.

Sister Petronilla Lieser, who grew up in the Paynesville area, retired in January after 62 years as a Benedictine nun.

Sister Petronilla served her first nine years in various parishes, teaching religion classes, cooking for the priest, and doing whatever was needed. For 36 years, she was the head cook at a Catholic hospital, and for the past 19 years she served as a pastoral associate, the last nine years at a Catholic church in Orofino, Idaho.

Sister Petronilla said she learned to cook and can from her mother on the farm. She has had lots of practice, too. "I cooked all my life," she said.

For 15 years, from 1969 to 1984, she entered wines and canned food in county fairs.

Sister Petronilla had two sisters who also joined the Benedictine Order. One, Sister Bernard Lieser, is still a practicing nurse in Idaho.

Sister Petronilla also has one living brother, Bernard Lieser of St. Martin, who traveled to Idaho for her retirement party in January.

Sister Petronilla's seven siblings that married had 74 children altogether. Sister Petronilla has four nephews who are priests, five nieces who are nuns, three nephews who are brothers, and one great niece who is a nun.

Sister Petronilla, who will turn 83 in April, plans to retire to the Monastery of St. Gertrude in Cottonwood, Idaho. She plans to spend her time in prayer and visiting the friends she has made during 64 years of life in Idaho.

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