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In 1926, only around 830 people lived in the small town of Shepherd, Michigan, located in Isabella County about an hour north of Lansing. Among those residents were the Wischmeyer family, to which Alfreda Mary Irene, the future Sister Mary Irene, was born on August 24 of that year.
Edward and Irene (Siefker) Wischmeyer had five surviving children: Mary Irene, who was the second oldest, and four boys, Maurice, Melvin, Norman, and Amos, who would go on to become a priest. Another daughter was stillborn.
When Mary Irene was three years old the family moved to Lansing, where Edward became a foreman at the Motor Wheel Corporation. Her file does not record when he actually got this job, but a short biography written in 1989 mentions that during the Depression years her parents refused welfare benefits, choosing instead to work in the fields alongside migrant workers.
But whatever her family’s circumstances, Mary Irene had a happy childhood. “Our family was almost a community in itself, a close, loving community,” she said in a 1995 interview that served as her autobiography. A self-described tomboy, she loved sports, playing tennis and softball and enjoying ice-skating as well. Her competitive streak also showed up in the times she and one of her brothers carried buckets of cucumbers through the neighborhood, vying to see who could sell the most.
Read more about Sister Mary Irene (pdf)
Memorial gifts may be made to Adrian Dominican Sisters, 1257 East Siena Heights Drive, Adrian, Michigan, 49221.
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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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