Sylvia Norfleet was born on November 3, 1938, in St. Louis, Missouri. Her great aunt was Catholic, which led Sylvia to join the Catholic Church when she was 11 years old. She attended St. Matthew Lutheran School in St. Louis and graduated in 1957 from St. Frances Academy in Baltimore, Maryland, which was run by the Oblate Sisters of Providence. In time, Sylvia married David English and moved to Detroit.
Sylvia met Sisters Rosemarie Kieffer, OP, and Nancy Jurecki, OP, at her parish, Our Lady Gate of Heaven. She also attended the Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit, where she met Sister Anneliese Sinnott, OP, one of the faculty members.
Sylvia was always interested in outreach to the elderly and became volunteer coordinator of “Joyfield Caregivers.” This group was an elder service program that used the resources of church and community to help people maintain independent living, all at no cost to the participants.
From working with the Adrian Dominican Sisters, Sylvia began to take an interest in Associate Life. Sylvia was mentored by Sister Bridget Maier, OP, and joined Associate Life on October 7, 2000. She was a member of the Kaleidoscope Mission Group in the Great Lakes Chapter.
“I have an overwhelming desire to get closer to Jesus, to do His will,” Sylvia wrote in explanation for her desire to become an Associate. “I continually observe, listen to, and discuss all aspects of daily life. I find there is a truth and uplifting quality about these Sisters.” She also believed that she had the same vision as the Adrian Dominican Sisters. “We are a Gospel centered community, committed to learning and giving, through service,” she wrote.
“I am constantly in touch with my Mission Group,” Sylvia wrote a few years ago. “We dialogue. I believe we never stop learning. My challenge is physical. I have slowed down a lot in the past few years. Despite my health and poverty, God has blessed me more than ever.”
Sylvia suffered with declining health – mostly small strokes through the remaining years of her life. Her Mission Group was her lifeline.
Sylvia had surgery in mid-December and was unable to recover. She died on December 27, 2017. She was preceded in death by her son Craig English and one grandson, Davonne William Shaw. Surviving are her children Debra English Butler; David English, Jr.; and Leslie English.
The wake for Sylvia will be held from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. Thursday, January 11, 2018, at O.H. Pye III Funeral Home, 17600 Plymouth Road, Detroit. The Funeral will be at 11:00 a.m. Friday, January 12, 2018 at Sacred Heart Church, 1000 Elliott Street, Detroit. The burial will follow at Detroit Memorial Park West in Redford Township, Michigan.
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Even as a child, she loved playing school and being the teacher.
She wanted to be like the Dominicans who taught her in school.
This line from Sister Mary Adelaide’s life story, written down in 2004 by Sister Jodie Screes, illustrates exactly why Sister Adelaide’s entry into the Congregation came when she was just sixteen years old. Her sister Rita, two years older than she, entered along with her.
Sister Adelaide was born October 11, 1918, in Detroit to Henry and Mary Agnes (Hickey) Eiden. Henry worked in the “dead letter” office at the Post Office, while Mary Agnes, who was affectionately referred to as Mae, took care of the home and the couple’s four children. Besides Rita and Adelaide, there were James, the eldest, and Ann Dolores, the youngest. In her biography, Sister Adelaide remembered her father as an “exceptionally peaceful man” and her mother as “a good, kind and very organized woman who handled the business affairs of the household.”
The family attended St. Theresa’s, where the children were taught by the Adrian Dominicans in the parish school. When Adelaide was a junior, she asked her mother if she would care if Adelaide entered the convent — at which point Rita added that she wished to do the same thing. Mae took the question to Henry, whose response was that the two were quite young but if this was what they wanted, it was all right with him.
Read more about Sister Adelaide (pdf)
Memorial gifts may be made to Adrian Dominican Sisters, 1257 East Siena Heights Drive, Adrian, Michigan, 49221.
When Sister Mary Ann Zakrajsek’s family and her fellow Adrian Dominican Sisters filed into Holy Rosary Chapel over the course of two days for her Vigil service and then funeral, they were greeted by a print placed prominently on an easel next to the ambo.
The print, which Sister Mary Ann had brought with her when she returned to Adrian from Cleveland, Ohio, just one month earlier, was of a painting by Christian artist Joann Reed titled, “Come Unto Me.” With its depiction of Christ’s arms reaching toward the viewer, it sustained Sister Mary Ann in life and through her last days.
Sister Mary Ann was born in Cleveland on January 10, 1936, to Matt and Antonia Perko Zakrajsek, both immigrants from Slovenia, in Yugoslavia. Matt worked for the Cleveland Wire Cloth and Manufacturing Company, while Antonia took care of home and family.
The Perkos had eleven children in all, three of whom died in early childhood. Sister Mary Ann was a twin to Richard, and her birth was apparently a source of great excitement, given that the other surviving children in the family at that point were all boys. At Sister Mary Ann’s Vigil service, her Chapter Prioress, Sister Mary Jane Lubinski, related a memory told to her by Sister Mary Ann’s cousin, Adrian Dominican Sister Miriam Joseph Lekan, who was thirteen at the time of Mary Ann’s birth: “Older brothers came running down the street announcing ‘We have twins! And one of them is a girl!’”
Read more about Sister Mary Ann (PDF)
When I was a novice at morning meditation one day, I read a great quote that has been with me all these years. It reads, ‘”I may go this way only once. If there is some good that I may do, let me do it now, for I may never go this way again.” I have tried to live by this – And what a life it has given me.
So ended the autobiography of Sister Christine Ostrowski, who died November 23, 2017, at the age of seventy-three.
Sister Christine was born August 22, 1944, in Detroit, to Leonard and Helen Wolkiewicz Ostrowski. She and her mother lived with her grandparents in the largely Polish enclave of Hamtramck until her father returned from service in the Army, then the family moved first to the east side of Detroit and then, in 1948, to the west side of the city.
Leonard worked as a Detroit bus driver and Helen took care of home and family. “My parents were faithful Catholics, loving, hard-working and fun,” Christine wrote in her autobiography.
Read more about Sister Christine (pdf)
Memorial gifts may be made to Adrian Dominican Sisters, 1257 East Siena Heights Drive, Adrian, Michigan, 49221. Funeral arrangements are being handled by Anderson-Marry Funeral Home, Adrian.
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.
We will post memorial reflections on our faithfully departed Sisters and Associates. If you would like to reflect on a Sister or Associate who has gone before us, please send your reflections – no more than 500 to 600 words – to
We invite you to meet some of the wonderful women who have recently crossed into eternity.