Helen Ann Masuga was born on July 13, 1923, into the cultural melting pot that was Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in that era. Both sets of grandparents were born in the part of Austria that became part of Poland, and her father, Paul, came to the United States at the age of 17 and made his way first to Cleveland and then to the iron mines of the Upper Peninsula, while her mother, Frances Rucinski, arrived in New York at age 16 and became a seamstress.
Of her parents, Sister Maureen Therese, as she became known in religious life, wrote in her autobiography: “How I marvel at their courage and determination!” Besides the fact that they were just teenagers when they emigrated, “it had to be very difficult to journey to an unknown country, uncertain of the future, relying only on relatives and friends to help them adjust to a new culture and a new language.”
Sister Maureen Therese attended the public school in Caspian until eighth grade, at which point she went to St. Ignace, on the other side of the U.P., to be taught by the Ursuline Sisters at their academy for that year. She already knew the Ursulines of St. Ignace from the three weeks each summer that the pastor would bring some of them in to provide sacramental preparation, and even at the early age of seven she had dreamed of joining their community some day.
Read more about Sister Maureen Therese (pdf).
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Aunt Helen was the home base for our entire family. If you needed to get the latest on anyone and everyone she would usually have the answer.She is sorely missed and will be for a long time. Her care and dedication was unmatched. I just know if I am lucky enough to see her again I willhave made the journey we all hope to make. All my love, Koko
Koko, Your sentiments are so true! She was absolutely the most caring family member to everyone. We certainly will miss her. Thank you for being at the service. It was so nice to know that family was there and also for your visit before she passed. I am sure that meant the world to her. I am so glad that I did get to convey my love and words to her via phone. The Sisters were so kind and caring when I called. As you stated, someday our hope is to see her again. God bless you always. Love, Paula
My Auntie Helen was like a grandmother to me. My grandmother on my dad's side passed before I was born so Auntie Helen stepped in and became that very special person to me. She was a very faithful and prayerful woman...a nun... and was such an inspiration to me. Her caring and kind ways were so genuine. Her heart was truly humble and loving. I don't know a kinder person. My heart aches because I will miss her dearly. She helped shape me into the person I am today. I am saddened that I was not able to be there to hold her hand as she left this world and entered the glorious gates of heaven. It is hard to be so far away during this difficult time. Aunt Helen, you gave your life to the Lord many years ago and since then you lifted us, your family, in prayer daily. Now it is time we come together and pray deeply and devotedly. May your journey home be one that is blessed and peaceful. I am grateful God allowed me to love you in this life for 56 years. I have admired you and your constant, unending faith and devotion to the Lord. You have showed me what it is to be a true Christian and despite my faults and mistakes, I am forgiven. The joy you have brought our family will continue on in our precious memories. We will miss your words of encouragement along with your dear and sweet ways. We have been blessed by your grace. Your mansion in the sky awaits you...give my dad, Ken, a hug and kiss from me. I am sure you will be greeted by departed loved ones whom you have missed and there will be rejoicing, singing and dancing if I know the Masugas. Your precious journey home will be complete as Jesus opens his arms and says, "You have been my faithful servant, welcome home!" A kiss from my lips to yours in Adrian, Michigan and to heaven above… I will love you always... Paula
My Auntie Helen was a remarkable woman! From a very young age, I was inspired and influenced by her deep faith and devotion to the Lord. She came to visit us, her family, in Iron River and Caspian, for one week almost every summer when I was growing up.. That was always the best week of summer because the Masuga clan would come together to celebrate her, family and life. Auntie Helen always brought such joy to town. She was the rock of the family; the heart of us all. Her positive outlook was something I admired. She enjoyed chatting and laughing with us even as children and that was so heartwarming as well. She showed such compassion, love and kindness to all of her family...each one of us was important. She would focus on our strengths and made sure to compliment us on them. Time and time again, she would remind us of our good. As I look back on those times, I remember them with fondness and affection. What a true gift to our family she was and ever so humble about it. There was no doubt that she loved us and prayed for us too. Oh, this lovely lady, I will miss her so much. I just re-read a card she sent me not long ago with beautiful encouraging words. She always knew just what to say to brighten your day. I hope she knows how much we all loved her deeply and dearly. She was a beautiful rose in a garden, a brilliant agate on the beach and a soft gentle breeze which touches your soul just when needed most. She was there for us always and will continue to be.. I rejoice in knowing that Auntie Helen rests safely in Jesus' caring and loving arms. Reunited with her long departed family whom she has missed for years. . Thank you God in the heavens above for sharing this incredible woman with us. I trust she is safely home with you. I will love you always, Auntie Helen, you are with me forever. I will continue to whisper my thoughts to you...for you are not gone, you have just gone before us...
Sister Maureen Therese was the matriarch of our family and such a gift to this world. I am sad that I did not get to be with her as she journeyed to heaven but I am very grateful for my cousin George who was. I will try to live a life as she taught me with kindness gentleness and patience for others. She my mentor my aunt and my dear dear friend. I will miss her tremendously. I love her more then words can express.
Sister Maureen Therese, you will always be in my thoughts.May 27, 2018St. Mary Star of The Sea, a newly established parish on the southwest side of Chicago, opened it’s brand-new school doors to us in 1950. That’s when I met Sister Maureen Therese. I was a seventh grader, Maureen a first grade teacher. The school enrollment was small and staffing was limited that first year of operation. Ready or not, the school doors opened in September. Most of us kids had transferred from St. Nicholas of Tolentine, so we were used to the Dominicans. We in the upper grades were called upon for multiple tasks as there was no one staffing the office, supervising the lunchroom, helping with the little ones, greeting kids as they arrived each morning etc.. We were a family, all of us, during those years. The sisters, the two priests, Fathers Steve Duggan and Bill MacErlean, were as much a part of our school life as were the nuns. Our school felt like a second family to me, a “family” of love. And that is when and how my 67 years of friendship began with Sister Maureen Therese. I was her “teacher aide”, her bulletin board maker, her shelf straightener, her go-to kid. She trusted me with all manner of responsibilities. When a little learner needed extra help, our teaching principal Sister Eileen Cecile, would allow me to leave class so I could go down to the first grade to “teacher-aide”. So it was that I spent time in Sister Maureen Therese’s presence. Maureen emerged as a model of the kind of person I wanted to be. She was warm, gentle, always smiling; she loved those little kids and treated them with gentleness and respect. I am sure at the time that Maureen had no idea of the impact her life and manner had on me. After two wonderful elementary school years, I moved on to high school, and Maureen went on to another assignment. I joined the Adrian community in 1956; I know it was the influence of those years at Star of the Sea and the great love and respect I felt that nurtured my desire to become a Dominican. When I left the community in 1975 Maureen and I remained friends. She has always been, and will continue to be, the defining moment in my youth when I learned that angels lived among us. And she continues now to wrap me in her wings.Carol Lackner Tierney (formerly Sister Alfred Irene)
This is such a beautiful and lovely story. My Aunt Helen was a very special lady! Thank you for sharing how she influenced your life. She was so humble and kind. I am so grateful for her love and devotion to me, her niece, all my life. God made a gem when he created her.
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.