Mother Theresina’s experience prepared her for her role

Mother Theresina of Jesus Santiago seemed perfectly suited for her mission with the Poor Clare Nuns of Omaha

Multiple college degrees, her previous leadership experience and 47 years as an active religious sister helped the contemplative order for which she eventually became abbess – especially as she helped design, raise funds and bring their new monastery to completion.

Her prayers enhanced those efforts, as the designs she saw in a dream became reality and the seemingly impossible task of financing the building came to fruition, said Connie Cosentino, a longtime friend and helper.

The abbess, who was 83, died Nov. 19 after contracting COVID-19 and suffering from previous health issues, said Mother Kathleen Hawkins, acting abbess of the Poor Clare Nuns.

During a retreat in March, Jesus had told Mother Theresina that he would take her home this year, the nun revealed to Cosentino at the time.

Mother Theresina shared funeral services with Sister Mary Clare of the Holy Spirit Brown, a former abbess who was 93 and had died of COVID-19 just 10 days earlier.

A private funeral Mass for the nuns, which was livecast for remote viewers, was Nov. 27 at the Franciscan Monastery of St. Clare in Elkhorn with burials at Calvary Cemetery in Omaha.

A public celebration of life and open house will be Dec. 11, from 2 to 4 p.m., at Heafey, Hoffmann, Dworak and Cutler West Chapel, 7805 West Center Road in Omaha.

As a leader, Mother Theresina was organized, firm and strong in her opinions because she was convicted about her faith, said Father Patrick Harrison, pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Columbus and former chaplain for the Poor Clare Nuns.

Born in Manila, Philippines, and named Monina Teresa Reyes, she joined the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartes at age 17. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism, a master of arts degree in theological studies and a doctorate in theology.

Mother Theresina was a university president, vice president, seminary professor and author in the Philippines. Fluent in several languages, including Italian, French and Spanish, she also served as a translator in Rome.

After 47 years with the Sisters of St. Paul, Mother Theresina felt called to contemplative life. 

She arrived in Omaha in 2003 to begin her discernment with the Poor Clare Nuns. She professed her final vows three years later and was elected abbess in 2012.

The building of the Franciscan Monastery of St. Clare, of which she had been put in charge, was completed in 2015. It was an eight-year project.

“Her energy and enthusiasm came from her love of God, which was her driving force behind everything she did,” the Poor Clare Nuns said in a written tribute. “The starts and stops of the building project never discouraged her. She knew God had an ‘anointed time’ for His project to be completed.

“She surrendered everything to the Lord and He graced her with all that she needed to accomplish and do His Holy Will.”

Survivors include four sisters; cousins; nieces and nephews; and the seven remaining members of her religious community.

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