The Death of the Foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame, Sister Maria Aloysia Wolbring

[As the sesquicentennial of the arrival of the Sisters of Notre Dame in America approaches on July 4, 2024, my thoughts turn to the founding sister.]

Sister Maria Aloysia was someone who always did what needed to be done, as was shown in her going to the United States as a traveling companion to Mother Mary Chrysostoma, superior general, and the first group of Sisters going to America after being exiled from Germany. When Mother Mary Chrysostoma returned to Germany three months later, Sister Maria Aloysia stayed behind to teach a large class of girls in St. Peter school. A letter of the time said: “It was her joy to remain in active teaching service as long as possible.”

On May 6, 1889, Sister Maria Aloysia died at Mount St. Mary’s in Cleveland. In her ministry to poor children in a small house on Süring Street in Coesfeld, she began the work of love that was to spread worldwide. By the time of her death, 328 Sisters of Notre Dame were active in the ministry of education. There were 124 sisters who died before her in the 39 years since the founding in 1850.

Because of a sudden heat wave Sister Maria Aloysia had to be buried on the afternoon before the day chosen for her burial. Without telephones, no one could be informed. Only five persons formed the funeral procession. Sister’s resting place was on the small hill of St. Joseph’s Cemetery, amid 23 Sisters who had died in Cleveland before she did.

One may wonder why Sister Maria Aloysia never directed the congregation as superior general. One reason was that she had an official state teaching position to which she was duty bound by reason of her oath of fidelity. Then, there was the fact that her regular salary contributed to the upkeep of the young community. And finally, she did not have the prescribed age of 40 required by Canon Law. In 1856 she was only 28 years old. Her whole life was spent as a good educator, caregiver for orphans, and local superior. Whatever she did, she united her work with the “works of the divine Savior. Thus we make gold out of stones, that is our actions thereby receive value in the sight of God” (Letter of July 13, 1881).

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  1. Sr. Berneta on June 29, 2024 at 8:18 pm

    I continue to enjoy reading these even though I know the basic story.

  2. Catherine Schneider on July 2, 2024 at 7:32 am

    Love these. . .and we are all called to “make gold out of stones.”

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