Isle nun helped shape minds and spirits
Sister Katherine Theiler / Educator
When Sister Katherine Theiler left Hawaii in 1974, she had spent a 30-year career as an educator and school principal in island Catholic schools.
She returned a few years later to launch a second career, co-founding the Spiritual Life Center, which brought a new ecumenical movement of contemplative prayer to the Christian community in Hawaii.
"She had two very full life careers; she never stopped learning, growing," said Sister Joan Chatfield, a member of the Maryknoll religious order to which Theiler belonged for 65 years.
Theiler, 87, died July 24 in St. Francis Hospice.
She served as principal of Maryknoll High School from 1964 to 1974 and was previously a teacher at the school and the principal of St. Michael School in Waialua and St. Anthony School on Maui. Former Gov. John Burns appointed her to the state Board of Social Services in 1965.
But most people remember Theiler as a spiritual guide. "She lived and embodied what she taught -- a wonderful mentor," said the Rev. Dan Hatch, interim pastor of Community Church of Honolulu. "She was spiritual director to many people," a role that "helps a person be aware of how God is moving in their life ... bringing you into a three-way conversation with God."
The Spiritual Life Center was focused on bringing contemplative prayer to Hawaii. "She was very prophetic in that sense," said hospice chaplain Clarence Liu, a former priest. "Classically, a prayer uses biblical images, such as Jesus the Good Shepherd." In the contemplative form, "one has to enter the silence of their heart to meet the silence of God. It's the difference between describing someone and meeting them. It was a profound kind of awakening for the Catholic Church, back into prayer that was lost for many years."
Maxine Pollock said, "I think of her as my spiritual mother. For 25 years she listened to me. This woman believed in me at times when I couldn't believe in myself." Pollock credited Theiler with encouraging her to complete studies and become a spiritual director, establishing her own Scrub Bucket Ministries.
Since 1992, Theiler carried on a special ministry with women in the Hawaii Alcoholism Foundation Sand Island Treatment Center, helping them through the 12-step recovery process, Chatfield said.
Theiler was born in Tomahawk, Wis. She is survived by brother Carl Theiler of Tomahawk and sister Nell Ann Virgil of Eagen, Minn.
A funeral Mass will be said at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Newman Center, 1941 East-West Center Road. Burial will be Monday in Diamond Head Memorial Park. The family suggests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Maryknoll Sisters, 2880 Oahu Ave., Honolulu 96822.