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College notified of Sisters’ passings

Mandi Stirone | Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Saint Mary’s students were sent an e-mail Thursday, informing them that a Sister of the Holy Cross, who had been residing in the on-campus Convent, had passed away on Nov. 4.

The e-mail, sent by Michelle Vasquez, secretary to Sister Rose Anne Schultz, vice president for Missions, invited students to attend the funeral Mass and burial on Friday and included a link to a biography of Sister Margaret Mary Duggan available on the Mission Web site.

The Mission section of the Saint Mary’s Web site has a list of biographies of deceased Sisters of the Holy Cross beginning with Sister Agnes Eileen Walshe who passed away on Jan. 7, 2007.

The list, entitled “In Memoriam,” began in 2007, but the department of Missions has been keeping these records long before then, Sister Schultz said.

The Department began mass e-mailing students as a result of several people coming to Sister Schultz and asking why they weren’t being informed of the Sisters’ deaths, she said.

The information can go on the Web site, but if students don’t know it’s there, they would have no way of finding out about this, she said.

It’s “just communicating,” Sister Shultz said. “Students don’t have to open the e-mails if they don’t want to,” she said.

The idea is to keep students involved with their founders, Sister Schultz said.

“Here’s the group who are our sponsoring body, they’ve served through out the world,” and they deserve to be remembered, she said.

The on-campus Convent, which happens to be the “Motherhouse of the congregation,” according to Sister Schultz, is a vital part of the Saint Mary’s community. Keeping students informed and involved with the Sisters is important, she said.

“Because Saint Mary’s is so closely [tied to the Sisters], this has more meaning for students here,” she said.

One program that has helped with building student relationships with the Sisters is the Friends With Sisters program, organized by Sister Louisita Welsh. Many students who were involved with the program and had their friend pass away have been involved in the funerals and attended their wakes, Sister Schultz said.

One student involved in the program, junior Brooke Druktenis developed a friendship with Sister Margery Mitternight, who passed away on Sept. 16, she said.

“I had been visiting Sister Margery for 12 months (even over the summer since I was working here in South Bend). She was bed-bound, so it was easy to find time in her schedule for me to come visit, which is not always true since the Sisters of the Holy Cross are so active for the most part,” Druktenis said in an e-mail.

She was informed of her friends’ death and was in attendance at the funeral, she said.

“Sister Margery’s funeral was the first funeral I had ever been to so it was tough for me since she was the first person I have ever had to grieve and celebrate the life of. The Sisters of the Holy Cross’ funerals are truly a celebration of life and I was surprised at how upbeat the funeral was,” she said.

Sophomore Liz Brown had a similar experience with her friendship with Sister Marie Bernadette Rogers, who passed away on Oct. 15.

“I went once a week every week all last year,” she said, “and then this year I kept meaning to get over there and then she passed away before I could see her.”

She was sent a personal e-mail from Sister Welsh before the rest of the school was informed, she said.

“I went to the Mass and I processed to the gravesite and was there for the burial and had lunch with the Sisters afterwards,” she said.

“The Sisters were amazing,” in helping her feel better, she said.

“She had gotten to the point where she was not remembering people,” and which Brown said helped her assuage some of her guilt for not being able to see her before she passed away.

Brown says that she still goes to visit Sister Rogers’ grave once a week.

“It still kind of gets me now and then, the fact that I can’t physically see her,” she said.

Brown said she approves of the new e-mails that inform students of the passing of Sisters. because it lets students be more involved as a community with the Sisters.

“Without the Sisters we wouldn’t exist,” she said.