sister mary engelhard summers

January 22, 1914 - February 11, 2013

Full of mischief and a generous heart

Rose Marie Engelhard was born in Eland, Wis., on January 22, 1914. At that time her parents Loomis and Elizabeth Johns Summers were living on the Oneida Indian Reservation. By the time she was ten, both of her parents had died so she and her siblings lived with their aunt.

The Sisters of St. Joseph, who were then teaching at St. Joseph’s Indian School in Keshena, Wis., were an inspiration to her from the time she was a freshman, so much so that she had wanted to become a sister before becoming a Catholic. After her baptism, she fulfilled her dream and entered the community in 1937. The following March she entered the novitiate and received the name S. Mary Engelhard. All her life, she loved being a Sister of St. Joseph.

After profession in 1940, Sr. Engelhard began serving at the old Nazareth Convent, doing all kinds of things, but excelling in the diet kitchen. After five years she became a child care worker and houseparent at St. Joseph’s Home for Boys in St. Louis. There, from 1945 to 1960, she cooked, cleaned, and folded laundry for her young charges. Her gifts of humor and play and special treats endeared her to these children. Small in stature herself, S. Engelhard joined their games as one of them. But more, she knew their losses keenly and gave herself to them with a compassionate, listening heart.

In 1961, S. Engelhard returned “home” to Nazareth to serve happily and whole-heartedly as a dietary aide in the kitchen. As the life of any party and full of mischief too, she also directed her energy to involving the sister residents in various activities, especially singing and dancing. With an ever-present giggle, she and S. Mary Timlin enjoyed dancing “cheek to cheek” in the basement hallways during recreation. Bowling outside the kitchen on the ground floor and playing cards on the main kitchen table made for much fun for both residents and sister staff.  Treasuring her Native American heritage, S. Engelhard filled some of her quiet hours crafting beaded key chains and other prized creations.

In February 1985, she determined after 25 years, that she too would retire. She went to live with the sisters of the Jeanne Fontbonne Community on the Nazareth property. When her health began to fail her, she moved into Gleason Hall as a resident in 1990. It didn’t take her long to win the hearts of the staff. She was the first to encourage others to participate in planned activities and to volunteer for various functions sponsored by Nazareth.

As a resident, Sister Engelhard could now immerse herself a little more in the “great outdoors.” When her health permitted, she walked the grounds, touching the earth, caressing the flowers, and admiring the tulips outside McGovern Commons. She could point out to her walking companions all the nests where animals would “hole up” during winter.

She especially appreciated fall when she collected leaves. In fact, too often her caregiver would have to go into her room and clean out her drawers which were filled with the gathered leaves. Once when Sister was in the hospital, S. Elizabeth Ahrens explained to her that she had had to go into her room and remove all those leaves, explaining that an unexpected visit by state inspectors would put the facility at risk. S. Engelhard assured her that that was OK to do because she would collect more when she got home from the hospital.

Now it is time for her to wander through heaven, pick leaves, sit with her favorite saints—the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph and the Little Flower—and hopefully listen to our prayers as we petition her. May she rest in peace. 

S. Rita Louise Huebner
S. Kathleen Karbowski

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