31 October 2010

A Centenarian Among Us

Pictured above is our dear Sister Mary Raphael signing her vows in our vow book on 21 November 2009. This year, when she signs the vow book she will be 100 years and 21 days old. Mass this morning will be offered for Sister's intentions and our Sunday "parishioners" will be treated to a 100-rose bouquet adorning the altar; the flowers were was sent to Sister by a former pupil of hers in Parkersburg, WV. Mass programs all have an insert telling readers a bit about this quiet and humble (but ever-so witty) sister. Below, we share it with our readers:

Lucille Catherine Speer, the daughter of Elvader and Stella Stoddard Speer, was born October 31, 1910 in a rural area near McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania. Her father was a farmer and a tax collector and like many families of that area, the family held membership in the Presbyterian Church.

After attending Crafton public schools, she graduated from the then teacher's college which is now Indiana University of Pennsylvania. While a college student, she became a member of the Catholic Church in 1930.

For two years in the early 1930s, she was a relief worker for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. A coworker there told her about a teaching position that was available at De Sales Heights Academy in Parkersburg, West Virginia, an academy founded in 1864 by Visitation Sisters from Georgetown and Frederick. On August 15, 1938, Miss Speer entered the Parkersburg Visitation community, making her final vows in 1943. As Sister Mary Raphael, she began a long career at De Sales Heights that included teaching English, Mathematics and religion as well as being librarian, assistant principal, principal and superior of the community. In 1941 and 1942, she received an MA in educational Administration from the Catholic University of America, an accomplishment unique for a Visitation Sister in those pre-Vatican II times. Another special remembrance she has is of accompanying a group of De Sales students on a four-week trip in Europe for which they received a credit in the study of world cultures.

When De Sales Heights closed its doors in the early 1990s and the sisters were received into other Visitation communities. Sister Mary Raphael and Sister Mary Immaculata Janz were welcomed here at Georgetown Visitation in 1992.

Beginning on October 20th, Founder's Day, when the Georgetown Visitation students and faculty presented a special cake to Sister Mary Raphael, we have been celebrating a milestone that in 2010 is still a rarity, even though she assures us that "We all age at the same rate of speed..."

Other famous quotations from Sister include: "Well ..." (spoken calmly and deeply.) When asked if she would like something else to eat: "I believe that I feel quite satisfied." And when Mother Mary Berchmans offers to push her chariot for her she responds with: "Mother, you have bigger fish to fry."

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