Sister Mary Karen Werra was a Sister of Mercy for 65 years. She attended elementary and high school at Mount Mercy Academy in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Having graduated in June, Sister Karen entered the Sisters of Mercy, Province of Detroit, on September 7, 1956. She earned a bachelor of arts degree at Mercy College of Detroit in 1961 with a major in Speech and Drama Education. She had one-year teaching assignments at Our Lady of LaSalette (Berkley), St. Andrew’s (Saginaw), and St. Brigid’s (Midland). After receiving a Permanent Teaching Certificate in 1964, she taught at Saint Mary’s (Big Rapids), St. Patrick’s (Parnell), Immaculate Heart of Mary ((Detroit), and Holy Cross School (Lansing).
Sister Karen earned her Master of Science in Education from the University of Dayton in 1970. Because of her expertise, she was assigned to teach Reading Development at Mercy College of Detroit, which she held for 11 years. When Sister Karen resigned, President Maureen Fay, O.P. wrote, “You will carry to your new beginning the gratitude and love of the Mercy Community and of its president who will miss not only your professional expertise but also your laughter and your sense of fun.”
She moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, returned to elementary education, and taught at Saint Andrew’s Cathedral School for 15 years until a hearing disability forced her from the classroom. Her superintendent and classmate, Sister Rosemary Smith, said, “She served the Lord with her numerous gifts. She loved teaching, especially her vivacious fifth-graders at St. Andrew’s Cathedral School.”
During her many years in ministry, Sister Karen received numerous awards. These included the Bishop’s Circle of Honor Award, Outstanding Educator (Saint Andrew’s Cathedral School), Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, and Outstanding Educator Diocese of Grand Rapids. Sister Karen lived her professional philosophy, saying, “The hallmarks of my service are thoroughness, enthusiasm, excellence, and joy.”
Upon leaving her teaching career, Sister Karen took up a new ministry in which she lovingly served meals to the needy at God’s Kitchen in Grand Rapids. She said, “Leaving teaching to honor the poor and homeless by feeding, preparing meals, serving the hungry with dignity and respect was an immeasurable blessing.”
Sister Mary Karen was known for her beautiful singing voice and the numerous love-filled messages and artistic bookmarks she made and sent in greeting cards.