Sister Susan Staff, (formerly Sr. Gracemary) died peacefully on May 25, 2016, after 58 years professed as a Sister of the Divine Savior. We will all remember Sr. Susan for her determination to remain active and independent, despite dealing most of her life with the effects of childhood polio. Taught at an early age to face the challenges to her mobility, she lived a rich life of service.
Sr. Susan was born Susan Marie in 1938 in Milwaukee, oldest of 10 children. She attended St. Robert’s Parish school in Shorewood, and came to know the kindness and simplicity of the Sisters of the Divine Savior while attending Divine Savior High School. Shortly after graduation in 1956, she entered the SDS Congregation. She made first vows in 1958 and perpetual vows six years later.
Sr. Susan earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and diet therapy from Milwaukee’s Mount Mary College. From 1963 to 1965, she served as a dietitian at St. Mary’s Hospital in Wausau, Wisconsin, and from 1965 to 1970 taught nutrition and diet therapy at Marquette University College of Nursing in Milwaukee. For the next three years, Sister Susan served the province as novice mistress, public relations and communications coordinator, and vocation director.
In 1973, Sr. Susan began serving the Archdiocese of Milwaukee at St. Francis Seminary, first as assistant to the director of the Albert Cardinal Meyer Institute, and then assisting Father Gerald Hauser with fund development. This 15-year ministry brought Sr. Susan rich, lifelong friendships with many people, including Milwaukee clergy and especially Fr. Hauser. Sr. Susan’s work planning and escorting tours to the Holy Land and Rome was especially dear to her heart.
In 1989, Sr. Susan was appointed the first director of development for the Salvatorian Sisters. During her 10 years serving in fund development, it became a vital source of support for our international ministries. Until about six months before her death, Sr. Susan continued to minister as one of a team of Archivists for the North American Province.