sister mary antonia palumbo

October 27, 1914 - August 3, 2013

Wonderful things happened in her classroom

As those of you who have had or are having the opportunity to experience Sr. Antonia as your teacher can attest, some very wonderful things happened in her classroom—though the full value may not be recognized for years after the experience. She is a special person, gifted and willing to share her gifts—the greatest of which is a determined and authentic desire to be her best, to be that special person God is forever calling her to be. And in her willingness to be that, don’t we all hear a similar call?”

—Bulletin, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, 1984, on the occasion of the golden jubilee of S. Mary Antonia Palumbo

S. Antonia was born October 27, 1914, in St. Louis, in the area residents lovingly call Dogtown. Within a month she was baptized at St. James the Greater Church. Her parents, Maria Rocchio and Domenico Palumbo had been born in Campobasso, Italy, where they met, married and began their family. In 1903, Domenico and three of his friends left Italy to follow jobs open in the terra cotta mines. Establishing themselves in St. Louis, they found jobs at Winklemann Terra Cotta Company. On weekends they helped each other build their homes to fulfill their plans of sending for their families left behind in Italy.

It was a great day when her mother and Anna and Tony were able to come to their new home. Eventually the family grew until there were six boys and three girls. The neighborhood was predominantly Irish and German; only three Italian families lived on the street. Her first introduction to a new language was her first day at St. James the Greater School, where S. Huberta welcomed her to first grade. Although at first she didn’t understand the language, all activities were begun with the Sign of the Cross, an extension of her home life.

At 19 this young woman entered the community at Carondelet, receiving the habit on the feast of St. Joseph in 1934. After her profession in 1936, she began her ministry in elementary education at St. Mary Magdalen School in St. Louis. From 1942 until 1954 she taught at Little Flower School in Mobile, Ala., where the people, speaking gratefully of her to this day, have never forgotten her. Later she spent six years at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in St. Louis. A stellar primary teacher, she was an excellent mentor for new teachers. Her leadership skills placed her in elementary administration for six years—at St. Cecilia’s in Peoria, Ill. and at St. Philip Neri School in St. Louis.

She returned to classroom teaching in 1967 at Our Lady of the Americas School in Kansas City, Mo. Located in the inner city and comprised mainly of Mexican-American students, the school led S. Antonia into a new culture, where her graciousness and kindness as a teacher, endeared her to the children and their families. The school was involved with many government programs; S. Antonia took full advantage of them, always with the aim of advancing the students, whom she served for eleven years. For the next 18 years, (1978-1996), S. Antonia taught and tutored intermediate grade students, touching hundreds of lives as noted in above citation.

In 1996, S. Antonia went to live at Nazareth Living Center. There she shared her talents with staff and residents alike. Fun loving, the life of the party, she welcomed visitors with warmth and friendliness. Her heart was always full of thankfulness and praise for all God’s gifts and in her last moments, God came with the final gift of eternal life. May she rest in peace.

S. Rita Louise Huebner

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