In Sister Charlene Cote’s autobiography, she wrote of the point at which she knew definitively that she was going to become an Adrian Dominican Sister:
I had been thinking of entering the convent ever since high school. One day, in the spring of my sophomore year at Siena, I met Sister Ann Joachim in front of Benincasa Dining Hall looking at the bulletin board. Standing next to me she softly said, ‘”Sister Charlene; we don’t have a Sister Charlene,” and off she went! I knew at that moment I was going to enter the convent!
Sister Charlene was born on June 26, 1936, in Chicago to Napoleon and Harriet (Martineau) Coté. Napoleon and Harriet both came from Manistee, Michigan, meeting when Napoleon was a high school senior. He originally planned to go to college with the money he made working in the summertime on the freighters that plied Lake Michigan, but he ended up getting a job right there in Manistee and never did attend college.
Eventually, he moved to Chicago to find a better job, and after Harriet joined him there the two were married and settled down in St. Laurence Parish on the city’s South Side.
Two girls came into the family: Harriet Marie, named for her mother and called Marie to avoid confusion, and then Charlene three and a half years later. About a month after Charlene was born, their father had the family’s surname changed to remove the accent over the e. “I suspect that it was Mom’s idea,” Sister Charlene wrote.
Read more about Sister Charlene (pdf)
Memorial gifts may be made to Adrian Dominican Sisters, 1257 East Siena Heights Drive, Adrian, Michigan, 49221.
As Sister Theresia Scheuer’s funeral Mass drew to a close, those gathered in St. Catherine Chapel sang a closing song that surely summed up Sister Theresia’s life: Robert Lowry’s “How Can I Keep from Singing?”
Music was intertwined with Sister Theresia’s life from her earliest days as a piano teacher’s daughter all the way to her last years, during which she shared her gifts as a singer, cantor, pianist, and organist with her Congregation. In between, she taught music at several schools in Ohio and Michigan, and her last twenty years in active ministry were spent as the music director at St. Alphonsus Parish, Deerfield, Michigan.
Sister Theresia was born Mary Susan Scheuer in Adrian on March 28, 1931, to Edward and Opal (Ott) Scheuer. She was a twin, but the other baby, also a girl, did not survive.
Despite her baptismal name, from early on she was known simply as Susie. She was the youngest of three Scheuer daughters, after Ahlene, the eldest, and JoAnn.
Ahlene “did not at first fancy the idea of another one in the family,” Sister Theresia wrote in an autobiography that dates back to her early high school years. “But gradually she became accustomed to the idea and didn’t think me quite so bad after all. JoAnn, who is between Ahlene and me in age, was quite thrilled.”
Read more about Sister Theresia (pdf)
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On May 13, 1929, a little girl came into the world in St. Francis Hospital in Charleston, West Virginia, born at just 7 months’ gestation to a woman from somewhere out of state named Martha Booker.
Martha gave her daughter, who came to be called Nancy, up for adoption, and as it so happened one of the nurses was friends with Edith (Dame) Hanna and her husband, Robert, and mentioned the baby to them. The Hannas adopted little Nancy, and she went home with them in July once she could leave the hospital.
Robert, who was born in Montgomery, West Virginia, was the manager of a mill and mining supply company in Charleston, while Edith, a native of Lowmoor, Virginia, was a certified teacher but stayed home to raise the couple’s daughter and became her earliest tutor. Nancy was homeschooled until the fourth grade, when she enrolled at Sacred Heart School, staffed by the Franciscan Sisters of Allegheny, New York.
“I remember fondly the fourth grade because of my first socialization in school,” Sister Nancy said in her life story. “I did well, except for jumping down the fire escape. Luckily, I did not break anything.”
Near the end of that school year, Robert picked Nancy up at school and told her that as soon as school was out they were moving to Lynchburg, Virginia, where he had gotten a job similar to the one he had in Charleston. The next school year found her enrolled at Holy Cross Academy, where she was taught by the Daughters of Charity.
Read more about Sister Nancy (PDF)
For Irish immigrants Frank and Catherine (Harper) McDonnell, July 4 became a day on which to celebrate much more than their adopted country. It was the date in 1927 that their daughter Colette, the future Sister Francis Elizabeth, was born.
Frank had come to America from County Mayo, Ireland, while Catherine was from County Wexford. The two met in Chicago, where Frank worked for the Chicago Athletic Association, an exclusive men’s club, as a chauffeur. Apparently, when notables came to the club from elsewhere, it was his job to take them around the city.
“Because he had that job we never had to go on the ‘bread line,’” Sister Francis Elizabeth said in her life story, referring to the Depression years of her childhood. “We weren’t rich but we weren’t poor.”
Colette was the oldest child of what came to be five siblings; the others were Francis, Mary Helen, Bernadette, and James. What would have been Frank and Catherine’s fourth baby died before birth.
The family lived in Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish on Chicago’s North Side, and Colette attended the parish school from kindergarten through eighth grade. The school was staffed by the Sisters of Mercy, and Sister Francis Elizabeth recalled that once when she was in eighth grade and stayed after school to help one of the Sisters, the Sister said to her, “Wouldn’t you like to be a Sister when you get older?” Her reply was, “No, I don’t think so.” Her dream was to work in a florist shop.
Read more about Sister Francis Elizabeth (pdf)
Our Adrian Dominican cemetery with its circular headstones is a beautiful place of rest for women who gave their lives in service to God — and a peaceful place for contemplation and remembrance.
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