October 25, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates, family members and friends, and members of the greater Adrian community gathered October 25 for a special celebration: the 100th birthday of Sister Ann Seraphim Schenk, OP. The celebration included a Mass in St. Catherine Chapel, a festive dinner for Sister Ann Seraphim and her family, and an afternoon reception.
During the Mass, which formally opened the celebration, Sister Ann Seraphim sat with her nieces and nephews, who had come from as far away as Illinois, California, New Jersey, and Texas to share in the celebration.
Father James Hug, SJ, Motherhouse Chaplain, in reflecting on the Gospel in which Jesus asks the disciples to let the children come to him, noted Sister Ann Seraphim’s example through her years as a teacher. Sister Ann Seraphim was a “wonderful example in our midst of God loving little children generation and generation after generation – blessing them, teaching them, praying with them, helping them to know God, laying your hands in blessing,” he said. “It’s a wonderful witness you’ve given to us of how Jesus loves little children. Thank you. Thank you.”
The afternoon reception gave Sisters and government officials the opportunity to pay tribute to Sister Ann Seraphim. Sister Patricia Dulka, OP, Chapter Prioress of many of the Sisters in the Dominican Life Center, noted the many people who benefited from Sister Ann Seraphim’s 100 years of life. “All the children that you touched, all the Sisters who lived with you and were especially taken by you, everybody that you touched, in some way they’re carrying that spirit because of you,” Sister Patricia said.
Sister Mary Margaret Pachucki, OP, Vicaress and General Councilor, extended congratulations on behalf of the entire General Council. “We just glory in the 100 years of life that you are serving and many years in this Congregation,” Sister Mary Margaret said.
Sister Mary Margaret noted that a special papal blessing from Pope Francis was on its way to Sister Ann Seraphim “in celebration of who you are and all of the service that you have given to the children of the world.” In addition, she extended the congratulations and blessings of Bishop Earl Boyea, of the Diocese of Lansing.
Sister Noella Marie McLeod, OP, sent an email noting Sister Ann Seraphim’s impact on her life, from the time that Sister Noella started kindergarten at St. Gabriel in Detroit to her entrance into the Congregation in 1956, when Sister Ann Seraphim served as her companion, and through the years beyond. “I thank God for you, a constant in my life for so many years,” she concluded.
James Berryman, Mayor of Adrian, presented Sister Ann Seraphim with the Mayor’s Community Service Award, based on a quotation by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Life’s most persistently burning question is, what are you doing for others?” To Sister Ann Seraphim, he said, “Your life’s dedication and work certainly exemplifies that quote. Thank you, Sister Ann Seraphim, for your years of service of God’s children and for the life of a Dominican Sister.”
Sister Ann Seraphim also received tributes and congratulations from U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), State Representative Bronna Kahle (R.-Dist. 57), State Senator Dale Zorn (R-Dist. 17), Michigan Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. In addition, Sister Ann Seraphim received a basket of about 140 birthday cards from Sisters and Associates from throughout the country.
Born October 25, 1917, in Belleville, Illinois, and baptized Doris Rose Schenk, Sister Ann Seraphim was the daughter of Henry and Linda (Hoff) Schenk. She graduated in 1936 from Bishop Muldoon High School in Rockford, Illinois – where she was taught by Adrian Dominican Sisters – and entered the Congregation in June of that year.
Sister Ann Seraphim was predominantly an educator, teaching in elementary schools in Michigan, Illinois, and Arizona. She taught general subjects and music in kindergarten and at various grades at the elementary level. “I taught everything from Kindergarten, first and second grade to elementary school graduation,” she recalled.
Her longest terms of service included ministering as elementary and music teacher at St. Gabriel, Detroit, 1939-1945; elementary and music teacher at St. Theresa, Detroit, 1951-1959; principal and teacher at St. Mary, Chelsea, Michigan, 1960-1966; and principal of St. Bridget, Love’s Park, Illinois, 1975 to 1989.
After her retirement in 1991, Sister Ann Seraphim volunteered at St. Patrick’s Clothes Closet in Rockford, Illinois, until she moved to the Dominican Life Center in Adrian in 2004.
Sister Ann Seraphim earned a bachelor’s degree in science in 1947 and a master’s degree in administration and school supervision in 1970, both from Siena Heights College (now University).
Among Sister Ann’s favorite memories was her work with math students. “They won several local contests,” she recalled. She also enjoyed teaching kindergarten. “I tried to be a part of them, to connect with them,” she said.
In her years of teaching, Sister Ann Seraphim taught a range of students, from those who were brilliant to those who had more difficulty in their studies. She recalled especially the efforts she put into teaching students who were challenged by their class work. “I had to find an angle to reach them so they could flow in there and start working with the larger group,” she explained. “Then they’d get fired up.”
Through the years, Sister Ann Seraphim has been avid in crocheting, having completed enough crochet projects – hats, scarves, mittens, shawls, and afghans – “to fill this whole room.” She has given her creations away as gifts and has sold her creations at the Motherhouse Christmas bazaar.
Asked about advice she would give to younger Sisters and to people who aspire to reach 100 years, Sister Ann Seraphim advised younger Sisters not to approach community life or ministry with the attitude that they are “it,” but rather to see themselves as part of something much greater than themselves. To those who wished to reach her age, she said, “Just don’t worry about how many days you’ve got – just go live them!”
Sister Ann Seraphim with her family.
Feature photo (top): Sister Joanne Peters, OP, Co-Chapter Prioress, presents Sister Ann Seraphim Schenk, OP, with a basket of birthday cards from Sisters and Associates around the country.
February 14, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – Many people set aside Valentine’s Day to celebrate their own unique love story. The Adrian Dominican Sisters, Associates, Co-workers, and friends celebrated a unique love story this year: the 100th birthday of Sister Charles Christine Uhnavy, OP, who has been an Adrian Dominican Sister for nearly 80 years.
The special celebration included Mass; a special lunch that Sister Charles Christine shared with nearly 20 family members who attended the event; and an afternoon reception and birthday party.
“While the whole country is celebrating Valentine’s Day, here we are celebrating this day like none other,” said Sister Patricia Dulka, OP, Co-Chapter Prioress of Holy Rosary Mission Chapter. “Sister Charles Christine, we come to celebrate you with hearts full of love and joy for your 100 years young, for your life full of blessings, and for your life among us. You are a gift to us.”
Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress, also spoke of the blessing of celebrating Sister Charles Christine’s 100th birthday. She introduced Jim Berryman, Mayor of Adrian, who brought birthday blessings from a number of sources. As a special surprise, he showed a short video of a group of students from all schools in Adrian, including Siena Heights University, Adrian College, Jackson College, and the Adrian public schools. The students kicked off a new program, Pay if Forward Tuesday, by singing “Happy Birthday” to Sister Charles Christine.
Among the surprises of the day were a framed Papal Blessing from Pope Francis; letters from Mayor Berryman, Archbishop of Detroit Allen H. Vigneron, Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder; and a chest full of birthday cards from Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates from throughout the country.
“I never thought I’d get to be 100 years old,” Sister Charles Christine said during an interview. She expressed her gratitude for the many people who organized her birthday celebration and for those who joined in the celebration.
Sister Charles Christine has led a quiet life, but one that has had a great impact on countless children who today remember her as their first-grade teacher. Although she had taught other grades over the years – third, fourth, and fifth – her specialty was teaching first grade.
“I liked being a first-grade teacher,” Sister Charles Christine said. She especially enjoyed watching the young students progress from knowing very little to learning to read and write.
Sister Charles Christine has also taught teachers, helping to develop a phonics system to teach reading. She recalled giving a phonics presentation in the 1960s at Our Lady Gate of Heaven in Detroit – in front of her own first-grade teacher Sister Patricia Downs, OP. “She was happy and surprised that one of her [former] pupils was able to give the demonstration,” Sister Charles Christine recalled.
Although she enjoyed every mission in which she served and appreciated all of her local Superiors, Sister Charles Christine spoke fondly of her time at Our Lady Gate of Heaven. “That was a brand new school,” she recalled, explaining that the pastor had asked the Adrian Dominican Congregation for 14 Sisters but received 12. Because the convent was not ready at the beginning of the school year, “we had to live with the Little Sisters of the Poor for a couple of months, and there we were, all in one big row, sleeping in cots.”
Born Eunice Uhnavy on February 14, 1917, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Sister Charles Christine was one of four children of Gerald and Olivia Uhnavy. Also in the family were her sisters Vivian and Arlene and a brother, Charles. Her father, a tailor, owned his own business.
When she was young, the family moved to Detroit and then to Royal Oak, Michigan, where Sister Charles Christine attended St. Mary School for grades one to 12. She entered the Congregation in 1938.
Sister Charles Christine’s first missions took her to Chicago, where she taught at St. Nicholas of Tolentine from 1939 to 1940 and at St. Philip Neri from 1940 to 1943. She returned to Michigan, teaching at St. Mary, New Baltimore, from 1943 to 1944; St. Alphonsus, Dearborn, 1944 to 1947; and Our Lady Gate of Heaven, Detroit, 1947 to 1957.
After teaching at St. Mary in Defiance, Ohio, from 1957 to 1962, Sister Charles Christine returned a final time to Michigan, to teach at Holy Name, Detroit, 1962 to 1967; St. Jude, Detroit, 1967 to 1967; Anchor Bay Catholic, Anchorville, 1969 to 1971; and her home parish, St. Mary, Royal Oak, 1971 to 1977.
Sister Charles Christine lived with her sister in the family home from 1977 to 2012, when she moved to the Dominican Life Center in Adrian.
Among the many blessings of her rich and full life, Sister Charles Christine counts her travels. She celebrated her Silver Jubilee at the Basilica of Sainte Anne De Beaupré in Quebec, and, to celebrate her Golden Jubilee, traveled to Germany on a group tour.
Sister Charles Christine is the first in her family to reach the age of 100. Her advice for anyone who wants to live such a long and healthy life?
“Live one day at a time. You never know if this will be your last.”