Family genealogists know that when researching deceased relatives, it is often possible to catch glimpses of their interests and personalities in their living descendants. This is absolutely true of Sister M. Alberta and her deceased Dominican-Sister relatives. To read the biographies of Sister M. Alberta’s three aunts and her sister, Sister Rene, is to locate something of the fire for Dominican life and service that we see present in Sister Alberta’s life, too.
These biographies have been gleaned from the archives. Each was written after the sister’s death to be read in the dining room at the motherhouse on their death anniversaries.
Sister M. Augusta Gougherty
[Sister Augusta was the blood sister of Sister M. Alberta’s great-grandmother—who, when a young woman, delivered food, sometimes on horseback, to the founding sisters in Jacksonville.]
Sister M. Augusta was born at Woodson in 1862 and made her profession in Jacksonville in 1883. She was procurator [of goods and supplies] for many years an served both as teacher and principal in many of our schools [Jacksonville, Carrollton, Jerseyville, Prairie du Rocher, Paris, New Berlin, and Pana]. Illness kept her out of the classroom for the last four or five years of her life but was not able to prevent her prayerful interest in community problems. She prayed especially for the novitiate and was the confidante of the young girls in the academy. She died on November 12, 1916, in the thirty-third year of her religious profession.
Sister M. Maureen Flynn
Sister Maureen, a native of Franklin, Ill., entered the novitiate in 1919, a short time before her sister, Sister M. Edmund made her final profession.
All of Sister Maureen’s teaching years were spent in Springfield. First at St. Agnes Grade School, and later, following her graduation from the Art Institute in Chicago, as chairperson of the art department at Sacred Heart Academy. Here she encouraged many young people as well as adults to appreciate and to develop their talent.
Her busy active life included teaching during the summer months when she instructed and prepared children for the sacraments in rural areas where there were no parochial schools. She enjoyed this work and often related interesting experiences she had had. She also had an extensive stamp collection and she authored two books, With Love from Mother and This Place Called Lourdes plus many magazine articles. In 1960, she was included in The Book of Catholic Authors.
In 1978, Sister Maureen was diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s disease and was confined to the infirmary; her condition gradually worsened. During the last months of her life, she became completely dependent on her nurses. As her life drew to a close, the sisters prayed at her bedside night and day. She died peacefully in her sleep on December 17, 1983, with her sister, Sister Mary Edmund, at her bedside.
Sister M. Edmund Flynn
Our first centenarian entered life as Clara Flynn on January 15, 1896, on a farm near Murrayville, the sixth of the eleven children of Elizabeth Duffner and John Flynn. Born into a family with many connections with the earliest Springfield Dominicans and graduating from Sacred Heart Academy, Clara not surprisingly entered the novitiate, in 1917. In July of 1918 she received the habit from Father Hickey, who a year later gave the habit to her sister Cecilia, Sister Maureen.
Professed in 1919, Sister M. Edmund began her 52-year teaching ministry with first grade at St. Edward’s in Chicago. She next pioneered in Duluth, then taught a brief time at St. Patrick’s in Springfield before replacing a retiring sister in Litchfield. This pattern was repeated: she was briefly at St. Agnes in Springfield before going to Denver and then to Kingfisher, Oklahoma. In 1938, Sister M. Edmund, having a public school teaching certificate, was sent to Michael, Ill. From there she went to Richmond, Mich., where she began teaching in
termediate grades. This she continued at Our Lady of Grace in Chicago, Pana, Odell, St. Edward’s, Chicago, and Holy Angels in Aurora until a fall in 1971, when she was 75, forced her to retire to the Motherhouse.
Sister M. Edmund had received a bachelor’s in education from St. Norbert’s College in 1949, a process begun in 1920, but interrupted by the Great Depression. During those years when the community could not afford college classes, Sister M. Edmund had taught primary methods classes to other sisters. Her lifelong love of learning and conversation as well as her love of teaching were unaffected by the injury that brought her home. Once her hip healed, she tutored adults as long as she was able.
In her last decade, memory failed her. Long vibrantly active, she slowly became bedridden and silent, though sparks of recognition occasionally greeted visitors, especially her nieces, Sisters Mary Alberta and René Lawless. On May 21, 1996, during Morning Praise, she quietly died, ending a century on earth but beginning an eternity of celebrating fidelity, hers and her Lord’s.
Sister M. Rene Lawless
Born January 8, 1930, Cecelia (Sister M. René) was one of five children born to Edith Flynn and Joseph Lawless. Since her family had a farm near Murrayville, Ill., she helped with the chores as soon as she as able. She attended a one-room schoolhouse for grade school and she was an eager and active student. She attended high school at Sacred Heart Academy in Springfield, where she followed her older sisters, Marianne, Sister M. Alberta, and Sister Patricia. While covering the regular high school courses, she also took voice lessons and appeared in many SHA musicals.
After spending a year at Illinois College, Cecelia decided to follow her vocation by entering the Springfield Dominicans with two of her high school classmates on July 2, 1948. From what we hear, these three kept the novitiate a rather lively place! Her sister, Sister M. Alberta, was already in the community and two of her aunts, Sister M. Maureen and Sister M. Edmund, were also Springfield Dominicans.
Professed on January 3, 1950, she began her teaching career in various grade schools in Chicago, Mendota, Granite City, and Evergreen Park covering the next 14 years, with a 2-year stint attending college at St. Teresa College in Minnesota.
In 1965 she heard the call to become a missionary to Peru. She began as a pioneer on the mission in La Oroya and spent the next 30 years ministering to the people in Lima and La Oroya. She taught CCD, did pastoral work and taught high school religion. She started a program for the youth similar to Kairos retreats familiar to Catholic high school students in the US, which has been going continuously ever since. If she knew of anyone in need, she found a way to help them. Her hospitality was well known in Peru and her love and care was well remembered.
In 1996 she returned to Illinois and began ministering to Hispanic people in Decatur, Springfield, and eventually in Beardstown. She seemed to have limitless energy and found many ways to help those she was ministering to.
In 2004 she returned to the motherhouse. Her memory was beginning to fail and eventually she lost the ability to verbally communicate. Now she was being ministered to by the wonderfully caring staff in Regina Coeli. We seldom knew what she may have heard or understood, but many tried, especially Sister M. Paulita, to reach out to her in both English and Spanish. Her death on May 25th, 2016, released her into an eternal life filled with conversation and delight.