When it came to her students' chasing down news for their high school newspaper, Sister Julia Anne Maus taught them to never bury the lead, to crop photos tightly and to push a deadline. She was, however, unwilling to explain how she became so adept at running around a slippery football field in a full habit, white coif tight around her head, lugging a camera over her shoulder.

At Aquinas High School in La Crosse, Wis., she was the nun who seemed to be everywhere. One moment she was encouraging her journalism students to ask that just-right question, the next offering quiet insights by quoting poetry.

On Wednesday, the life of the oldest living Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration was celebrated at a funeral mass in La Crosse. Maus was 106 when she died last Sunday.

At Aquinas, she could be found on Friday evenings in the fall, working the sidelines and hauling a giant Kodak with the flashbulbs popping off in the eyes of players.

For decades, before entering the community of nuns and long afterward, she implored high school students to succeed. Hers was a simple method -- teach by example and passion. From the Iron Range and the Twin Cities to the hill communities of southwestern Wisconsin, she left scores of students bent on journalism with a lasting sense that they could reach and dream.

Becoming a nun at 42

After they'd graduated, she continued to teach them by living a principled life focused on social justice.

Maus was born in Albany, Minn., one of 12 children. Two of her four sisters also became nuns. She entered the community at 42, after caring for her aging mother, Catherine, while working as a teacher in Eveleth, Minn.

Her father, John, a teacher and a classical musician, encouraged his children to seek higher education. All of his daughters received college degrees. Maus graduated from the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn., in 1922, St. Cloud College in 1926 and the University of Minnesota in 1929, said Lloyd Maus, a nephew from St. Paul. She majored in English and journalism.

"She was there for us, and she was our inspiration," said Mary Uhler, editor of the Catholic Herald in Madison, Wis., and Maus' student in the 1960s.

From the schools to a parish

After retiring from teaching, Maus moved to the Church of the Epiphany in Coon Rapids from the late 1970s through 1990, performing duties as a pastoral minister and religion education coordinator.

She was active in food drives, directed women's groups and took part in campaigns to abolish capital punishment and end U.S. support of Central American governments she considered repressive.

In the 1980s, she traveled to Fort Benning, Ga., to protest the training of soldiers from Central American governments by U.S. special force advisers.

"She came back and told us what a wonderful time she had down there," Sister Karen Flottmeier, 68, said with a slight laugh. "She told us that her only regret was that she hadn't crossed 'the line' and gotten arrested.''

Maus is survived by her Franciscan Community of 288 sisters, including 80 at the Rose Convent. Services have been held.

Paul McEnroe • 612-673-1745