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)
Memorial gifts may be made to Adrian Dominican Sisters, 1257 East Siena Heights Drive, Adrian, Michigan, 49221.
“I can truthfully say that through my whole life I have seen clear manifestations of the love of God and of what He can do in and for His little ones.”
These words appear near the beginning of Sister Ana Feliz’s first St Catherine letter, written August 29, 1980. “In fashioning me He took poor clay and transformed it into a small and simple vessel,” the letter continued. “And guess what, by His power and grace it turned out right.”
Sister Ana was born April 27, 1932, in a poor and isolated mountainous area near San Jose de Ocoa in the Dominican Republic. It was “a place not much touched by man or machinery,” she wrote. She was the second child of Camino Feliz and Juana Encarnacion, but their first child died at age two. Ana wrote that her mother also suffered a number of miscarriages, probably from hard work and lack of medical care. Five other children besides Sister Ana survived: Mireya, Fran, Mirlita, Altagracia and Fatima.
Both parents were extremely hard workers who struggled to make a living on their small piece of farmland. Sister Ana wrote that her father’s coffee crop was barely enough to cover their expenses, and when emergencies occurred he had to sell coffee that had not even been picked yet. It pained Sister Ana to remember, even four decades later in writing her St. Catherine letter, that when she was six or seven years old, while playing in a box of beans, she accidentally got a bean stuck in her ear and her father had to sell his horse so he could take her to the town doctor.
Read more about Sister Ana (PDF)
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St. Rose of Lima Parish on Detroit’s east side was where Elizabeth June Hiller and her playmates – Harvey, Billy, Sonny, Harold, and Harold’s little sister, Shirley (the latter two the nephew and niece of Adrian Dominican Sister Ruth Grates) – spent many hours together doing typical childhood things: playing on Sonny’s swing set and monkey bars, eating cherries straight off of the tree in Harold and Shirley’s yard, hanging out under Elizabeth’s back porch in inclement weather.
Having four boys as friends was no impediment to Elizabeth, the future Sister Carol Louise. “I was a first-class tomboy determined to keep up with anyone in the neighborhood,” Sister Carol Louise wrote in her life story. “I had skinned and bloody knees to prove that determination.”
Elizabeth was born at home on October 11, 1921, to Ludwig and Caroline (Franz) Hiller. Ludwig was born in Vienna, Austria; his family came to America because the Emperor was conscripting young men for military service and out of the Hillers’ six boys, two were already in the army. The Hillers settled in Forestville, in the “Thumb” area of Michigan, but when Ludwig was old enough he moved to Detroit. He and Caroline married in 1916.
Read more about Sister Carol Louise (pdf)
“This is what Yahweh asks of you, and only this: to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God.” This scripture passage from Micah was Sean’s favorite; she took in these words and lived them faithfully in her ministry, our community, and with her family.
As we say farewell to Sean, the opening words of the Magnificat, which I am certain Sean prayed often, are especially fitting: “My being proclaims the greatness of God; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior … for God, wonderful in power, has done great things for me.” Sean, like Mary, you were a humble woman, a faithful woman, a lover of God, children, family and our community. For these fifty-nine years among us, you proclaimed God’s greatness. We thank you for this gift of your life. Blessed indeed are you among women.
These words from Sister Carol Jean Kesterke, Great Lakes Dominican Chapter Prioress, were part of her remembrance of Sister Sean Eileen Allgeyer at Sister Sean’s wake service the evening of August 22, 2019.
Sister Sean was born Norene Marcella Allgeyer on September 28, 1937, in Detroit, to Elsie (Pendergast) and Harold Allgeyer. She was the tenth child and the fifth daughter; there were twelve children in all born into the family: Robert, Bernard, Raymond, Frances, Eileen, Gerald (who died in infancy), Therese, John, Patricia, Norene, William and Catherine.
Read more about Sister Sean Eileen (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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We invite you to meet some of the wonderful women who have recently crossed into eternity.