sister mildred stellmack


May 8, 1921 - August 22, 2013

Always ready to lend a helping, loving hand

“Some days were harder than others.” That answer from S. Rose Augusta Klaas, her 6th grade teacher, did not dissuade her when Mildred Stellmack asked if it was difficult to be a sister. Indeed, S. Mildred lived a faithful life as a Sister of St. Joseph for 72 years. One of those “hard” days happened early on, however, when, as a postulant in 1940, she had to return home for her father’s funeral.

Mildred’s father, John Stellmack, was stouthearted, coming to the United States as a lone six-year-old child. How he ever managed to end up in Lawrenceburg, Ind., is a mystery. There he grew, worked in the saw mills, and met his wife, Anna. Eventually he moved his family, now consisting of two boys and two girls, to the south side of Indianapolis, where they became mainstays at Sacred Heart Parish, the center of the neighborhood. It was at Sacred Heart that Mildred, the youngest in the family, met the Sisters of St. Joseph who taught her for twelve years at both Sacred Heart grade and high school. After Mildred graduated, she became one of them. In 1941 she received the habit and the name S. Mary Ephrem, a name that first grade children found difficult to remember, she said.

S. Mildred taught in the heyday of large classes. Her assignments as a primary teacher took her to many parochial parish settings where the Sisters of St. Joseph staffed large schools: Holy Guardian Angels, St. Louis; St. Francis de Sales, Denver; Visitation, Kansas City; St. Mary Magdalen, St. Louis; St. Bede the Venerable, Chicago; and St. Roch, Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Jude, Indianapolis. Denver and its mountains held a special place in her heart as did all those children at St. Bede’s, about whom she remarked that once she had taught them in the primary school, she would not see them again until they graduated, so numerous were they.

In 1996 S. Mildred had ended her time with elementary school children. Previous to that she had been at St. Jude’s in Indianapolis as a tutor for five years. When her widowed sister, Marie, invited her to come live with her, she accepted, and for the next 12 years, the two of them lived together. It must have been a special time for the two of them, for now they had the time to share memories and care for each other.

It didn’t take long for S. Mildred to involve herself at Nazareth Living Center after she moved there in 2008. A former superior once said that she was always willing to lend a helping hand. And so she did at NLC. By setting out the placemats, silverware, and cups for the evening meals in one of the residents’ dining rooms, she provided a warm, welcoming spirit for those who would be dining there. But she did more. Many times she traveled the hallways of Nazareth Living Center to gather residents in the activity room for a friendly game of cards. For her “positive attitude, determination and commitment to life better lived,” S. Mildred received the 2010 Yes, You Can Award.

She also opened herself to new relationships and made fast friends with Sisters Rita Dooley and Josephine Breiner. God worked in a wonderful way, giving her new life as she could well attest because the three of them had not known each other before coming to live at NLC.

In S. Mildred’s simple, everyday living, she was a sincere and dedicated and loving Sister of St. Joseph. For her life among us we are very grateful. May she rest in peace.

S. Rita Louise Huebner

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