Newman is home for this well-known Sister

By Abigail VanNatta, Guest Writer

Sister Therese Wetta says her “first love” is Newman University, and she’s shown that in her long dedication to both the school and to the sisterhood. 

Between missionary work and advancing her education, Wetta has consistently found her way back to Newman over the last five decades. Her love for the college and the Sisters of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ who originate there is the reason why, she said.

Wetta began college at St. Mary’s in Leavenworth with the intent of pursuing a career as a medical technologist, but she quickly realized it was not the path for her. 

“I like people too much to be in a lab, so I switched to teaching,” she said. 

While working to get her bachelor’s in natural sciences between 1962 and 1964, Wetta finally answered the call to Sisterhood. She said the thought had always been there, but it wasn’t until a religious retreat in January of her sophomore year that she decided to give it a try. She joined the ASC and by 1963 professed her vows to the vocation.

She said that within a year of making the decision, she knew it was the right choice for her.

“I was happy,” she said. “It all seemed right, and it has continued to be right for me.”

In 1972, Wetta earned her master’s in biology at Kansas State University, then began teaching Biology at Sacred Heart Junior College, now known as Newman University. In 1983, she left Newman to complete her doctorate in Instructional Leadership at Boston College. She returned to Newman in 2013, where she worked as the Director of Development for Science and Health Science. During this time, she helped raise money for the construction of the Bishop Gerber Science Center.

In April 2021, Wetta’s position at Newman changed to Director of Missionary Integration. She said her current title represents her “joy” in continuing to work with students for as long as she’s able.

“God has gifted me with good health, and as long as I have the health and energy to serve here, I want to do it,” she said.

Today, Wetta still teaches each semester at Newman, taking on two ASC scholar classes, which are for students who apply and show exemplary service hours before college. Outside of teaching and her duties as a Sister, Wetta still finds time to attend as many student concerts, athletic events, and academic events as she can. She also follows a tradition of baking brownies for each Newman athletic team before one roadtrip each sports season.

“I want to support students and let them know that we’re here for them,” she said. 

Before settling into the position at Newman she is known for now, Wetta left the school and then returned three separate times. The first time was when she earned her doctorate. Then, between 2005 and 2011, she left to complete service on the General Leadership Team of the International Congregation of Adorers. Wetta said a part of her duty on the international leadership team was to visit ASC Sisters around the globe to carry out any business matters necessary for the ASC, while also supporting its Sisters.

Then in 2012, she had the opportunity to teach with the ASC in Tanzania. She said her time in Tanzania was one of her most memorable experiences, and if she could have stayed longer, she would have. She loved the people there.

“I loved the spirit. They do a lot of dancing, even during Mass,” she said. 

Wetta left Newman again in 2018 to do missionary work in Liberia, teaching students in seventh through ninth grade. She said the experience was much more challenging than Tanzania was because of the economic state of the country. The village they stayed in had no electricity, and people there drank from river water or well water. Because the Sisters were not acclimated to the water like the people of the village were, they would have to boil water frequently for safe-drinking.

Whether she’s teaching in West Africa or Wichita, Wetta’s dedication to her students knows no bounds, say those who work with her.

Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs Jill Fort said that during their shared time at Newman, Wetta’s love for the college and its students was obvious to her.

“She truly loves to be around the students,” Fort said. “She cheers them on within the classroom and during any number of events on campus. Her excitement is contagious. She truly lives the spirit of Newman daily.”

PHOTO: Courtesy photo, Newman Today