sister mary seraphine balwinski
April 12, 1915 - November 20, 2009
S. Mary Seraphine, baptized Mary Rita Balwinski, was a gift of God to her father and mother who had ten miscarriages. To many who knew her she was an angel who watched out for them. Having been born April 12, 1915, to Philip and Bertha Balwinski, she grew up during the depression when her family's garden fed many families in the area. Imitating her family's values, she always thought of others.
Growing up within the shadow of the St. Peter's Cathedral in Marquette and attending its grade school and high school, as well as praying together as a family, planted the seeds of her vocation. She said that in second grade she knew she wanted to be a Sister of St. Joseph. Sister followed her call to enter the community in the fall of 1933. She and Margie Matte, S. Anselma, boarded the train with a stop in Chicago at the Home of the Friendless. After receiving the habit in March of 1934, her first mission was the Home of the Friendless. After hearing the name of the institution, she had to reassure her parents that she would be all right.
Through the years, S. Seraphine ministered in schools in St. Louis, Indianapolis, Green Bay, Chicago, Marquette, Kingsford and L'Anse, which she said was her happiest mission. There she taught first grade and Kindergarten where many of the students were Native Americans.
S. Seraphine built life long friendships as she ministered to others. Two of her pupils, one from St. John's in Green Bay where she taught in the '40s, and one from St. Michael's in Marquette where she taught in the '50s remained faithful correspondents and visitors up to her death. After Sister left teaching, she formed a craft group among the widows of Sacred Heart Parish in L'Anse to help support the school's bazaar. They formed a strong community of women who looked out for each other. They in turn could not do enough for her. At Nazareth she always looked out for the needs of others as well and helped those at her table who could not see or hear well to order the desired items on the menu. She would give encouraging smiles and assistance where needed whether to the staff or residents.
S. Seraphine was always ready to "take the next step" in life's journey, which was due in part to her tremendous devotion to Bishop Baraga, the "snowshoe priest" of the Upper Peninsula. When Sister found her arthritis was affecting her ability to work with her Kindergarten students, she left the classroom and began a ministry to the senior citizens of the parish. When her diabetes necessitated an amputation of her leg, she accepted her lack of mobility with the grace of God and help of Bishop Baraga. She remained positive and grateful for her eyes and ears that enabled her to continue her bead work that she had taken up when she could no longer knit or do plastic canvas creations. Her daily prayers to Bishop Baraga were part of her strong faith. Her sense of humor came out even in her last days. When she could no longer operate her motorized chair, she said "We are not supposed to be driving after the age of 90."
Having lived peacefully throughout her life, at the end she went in peace to her God. We are blessed by her spirit of generosity and peace.
Sisters Jean Paul Selissen and Monica Kleffner