Sister Joseen Vogt, 93

Published 9:50 am Thursday, October 22, 2015

Sister Joseen Vogt, 93, a Franciscan Sister of the Congregation of Our Lady of Lourdes, Rochester, Minnesota, died at Assisi Heights Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015.

Sister Joseen Vogt, 93

Sister Joseen Vogt, 93

Celestine Caroline Vogt was born Feb. 25, 1922, in Waseca, Minnesota, to Joseph A. and Elizabeth (Krupp) Vogt. She entered the Sisters of St. Francis in 1940 from Sacred Heart Parish, Adams, Minnesota. Sister Joseen made first vows in 1943 and Perpetual Vows in 1946. In 1954, she received a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and in 1963 a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from the College of St. Teresa, Winona, Minnesota. Further education included an MS in Biology from Notre Dame University in 1967 and an MA in Curriculum Development from Goddard College, Plainfield, Vermont, in 1989.

Following her novitiate with the Sisters of St. Francis, Sister Joseen taught elementary and secondary students at several schools in Minnesota: Sleepy Eye, St. Kilian, Austin, Waseca, Iona, Currie, and Wilmont. She also taught in Watertown, South Dakota, St. Juliana’s in Chicago, and Wehrle in Columbus, Ohio. From 1974 to 1976, she taught science at Preston Girls High School in Thornbury, Australia. It was there that her life made a dramatic change.

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For nearly three decades, Sister Joseen would live and teach and set up teacher training and English language schools in some of the world’s most troubled countries. She found work through the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone, West Africa, where she established teacher training centers in villages across Sierra Leone. She did similar work at a refugee camp in Bataan, Philippines, and on the Thailand/Cambodia border. Through her experiences she came to know the struggles of the poor and the kind of physical suffering she had not imagined possible.

Beginning in 1993, Sister Joseen worked through the Catholic Office of Emergency Relief and Refugees (COERR) in Battambang, Cambodia. She was instrumental in starting the COERR Language Skills Center in Battambang, with an early enrollment of 120 students in 1994. Today the school serves 4,980 adults and children from age six and up at three sites. In 2001, she returned to the United States and in the intervening years made several trips to Battambang as a consultant to COERR. In 2013, she attended the graduation and dedication of the new school building in Battambang. Sister Joseen has documented many of her experiences in several volumes of her book “Itchy Feet.” Since 2007, Sister Joseen offered her services at Hawthorne Education Center teaching adult literacy until her retirement in March 2015.

Sister Joseen is survived by her religious congregation, with whom she shared life for 75 years; and by a brother Leonard (Evelyn) Vogt of Rose Creek, Minnesota; and by several nieces and nephews.

She was preceded in death by her parents; three brothers: Julius, Earl, and Clement; and by four sisters: Esther Meyer, Elizabeth Wiggins, Viola Rauen, and Florence Stephani.

A funeral liturgy will be held Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, at 11 a.m. in the Chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes, Assisi Heights, Rochester, preceded by a Prayer Service at 9 a.m. and followed by visitation. Memorials are suggested to the Sisters of St. Francis, Assisi Heights, 1001 14th St. NW, Rochester, MN 55901. All memorials for Sister Joseen will be designated to the school she started in Battambang, Cambodia.