Diocesan News

Archivist preserves history

Story by Reagan Scott

LINCOLN (SNR) - Since 2013, Sister Patricia Radek M.S. has been able to live one of her passions as the diocesan archivist.

As archivist, Sister Patricia said she is responsible for the collection and preservation of the past and present history of the people of God in the Diocese of Lincoln.

Sister Patricia said, “The purpose of the diocesan archives is to serve as a means of spreading the Gospel, maintaining true Catholic culture, understanding the development of the Diocese of Lincoln and aiding the local Church in her efforts to work for the salvation of souls.”

A day in the life of an archivist is never the same as the last. Each day, Sister Patricia could do any number of different tasks.

As a part of her job, Sister Patricia gathers articles and information pertaining to any of the 134 parishes that comprise the diocese, past and present bishops, and significant events that have shaped the physical and spiritual growth of the Catholic Church in the southern part of Nebraska.

Each week, she will go through articles from the previous issue of the Southern Nebraska Register and sort them into categories based on the schools or organizations that are covered. 

“I take what’s recorded now and organize it for people who may need it later. It becomes living history,” Sister Patricia said. 

Sometimes, a priest may call and ask her to find a record or historical information for them, since she keeps track of many things that are important to parishes.

“I maintain all of the sacramental records for each parish, since the beginning of the late 1800s up to the present,” Sister Patricia said. “These records include all baptism, Confirmation, marriage and death records which are sent to the Chancery archives yearly.”

This means that Sister Patricia could spend a day adding the new records to the database, or spend time inputting records from before the advent of computers, a job that she is not sure that they will ever get on top of with the volume of current documents that flow in.

An added challenge of updating information from past documents is a language barrier. Some of the records date back to the late 1860s and are in Latin, which Sister Patricia says can slow the process down significantly, but she has a helper who comes in once a week to help input data.

Each year, Sister Patricia also updates the book, “A Priest Forever,” the necrology (collection of brief biographical information) of every deceased priest who has served in the diocese. She said the book isn’t limited to diocesan priests only, but also includes priests from religious orders who have served in the diocese, such as Franciscans, Benedictines or Crosiers.

Though it’s not one of the main focuses of her job, Sister Patricia also greatly enjoys helping people with genealogy work.

“I enjoy becoming a ‘detective’ and helping find missing information, or people who are needed when a person is trying to complete a family history search. It’s very rewarding to help them find ‘the missing link,’” she said.

Sister Patricia shared that some of her happiest moments doing a genealogy search were when she was able to help at least five different people find the information they needed to place a dual citizenship request with the country of Luxembourg.

Before becoming the diocesan archivist four years ago, Sister Patricia taught elementary school three times in Wahoo, two times in Tecumseh, and in Lincoln, three times at Blessed Sacrament, two times at Sacred Heart and once at North American Martyrs.

Sister Kathryn Maney M.S. had been the archivist since 2001. When she was moved to her current role as Bishop Conley’s administrative assistant, Sister Patricia was assigned to the position and was elated.

“It seemed very natural,” she said. “I love history and trivia, and it seemed like a perfect fit, a seamless transition.”

However, the archives wouldn’t be as complete as they are today without the work of the late Sister Loretta Gosen of the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood in O’Fallon, Mo. (1913-2005).

Sister Loretta entered the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood in 1932 and professed her final vows in 1938. She served as a teacher, principal, university professor, and college president.

In 1978, Bishop Glennon P. Flavin asked religious communities for someone who was trained in keeping records and archiving information. Sister Loretta was sent by her order and served in the position until 2003. She was responsible for starting the archives and diocesan museum.

The museum was closed in January 2016 for remodeling in the basement of the Chancery, and many of the items have been stored away until new shelving is installed to display all of the things that showcase the diocese’s past. This project is “on hold” until funding is available to purchase or build new display cases.

Due to the remodeling, the archives are now private, but Sister Patricia noted that people might be interested to know that she has a collection of Vatican stamps dating back to 1929, if anyone would like to make an appointment to see them.

Because Sister Patricia’s tasks can vary so widely from one day to the next, she described her job as a living organism and one that she’s excited to have.

She said, “This is the dream job that I never thought I’d get.”

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