sister maria cabrini oldani


December 30, 1920 - August 28, 2011

Way of being welcomed others

Sister Maria Cabrini wrote, "In southwest St. Louis, there is an Italian settlement called ‘The Hill.' It was on ‘The Hill' that I was born December 30, 1920, the last of five children born to Isidoro and Regina Garavaglia Oldani." The family worshiped at St. Ambrose Parish.

Although baptized Adele Teresa Oldani, she was soon called Julia after her grandmother Julia, who had died in Italy soon after Adele Teresa was born. The name stayed with her throughout life. After eighth grade, she attended Rosati-Kain High School where she met the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Hers was a special relationship with sisters. After her mother died when she was just six years old, she received much attention and comfort from them. In addition, her older sister had entered the Sisters of St. Joseph. As a high school student, Julia and her classmates were invited to visit Carondelet, which she grew to love and where she could visit her sister, S. Regina Frances. Influenced by Mother Tarcisia Finn, who took a special interest in her, Julia entered the community in September 1939.

During S. Maria Cabrini's many active years of religious life she served in Missouri, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and Colorado. Her favorite place was wherever she was missioned. Most of her ministry was in elementary education, both primary and junior high students. She also served as principal and superior in some locations. As a teacher, she generously encouraged the students and other teachers.

A talented artist, she appreciated beauty in its many forms by painting watercolors, especially of her beloved Rocky Mountains and their glorious aspens. She shared these gifts generously as well as her faithfulness to friends and her profound compassion that welcomed all into her life. She was the embodiment of hospitality, an "old shoe," who never took herself too seriously but welcomed others with utmost respect and kindness. She loved being a Sister of St. Joseph, was faithful to community and very proud of the congregation.

Her ministry at St. Mary's which began in 1977, is legendary. At the outset she was a teacher, but in 1984 she became its "parish visitor" without equal. The sick, the homebound and residents in nursing homes looked forward to her coming. Later, she enrolled newcomers into the parish and visited each new person or family. In 1991 she and S. Ellen Roach, the parish adult education coordinator, began to live together. Supporting each other, the two of them served the parish well. By 1993 the parish was growing so quickly, it became impossible for S. Maria Cabrini to visit each one of them, so she welcomed them by telephone or by letters.

When she celebrated her 60th jubilee at St. Mary's in Littleton, Colo., the pastor, Father David Bluejacket, noted that she was a "model of humility and gentleness; an inspiration of faith and spirituality; and a witness to discipleship and love, a treasured blessing to St. Mary's."

While she considered herself something of a traditionalist she "enjoyed staying up with the times" and "tried to accept what comes each day." Her advice to those considering a vocation: "Give it a try! I'm sure you won't regret it."

Can anyone summarize such a beautiful life? This joyful, prayerful woman, at the ready to help wherever she could, is a perfect example of what it means to be a Sister of St. Joseph. May she share her spirit with us that we may become more like her. May she rest in peace.

S. Rita Louise Huebner

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