Sister Claudia Lewis
“I give you thanks that I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are your works.” (Psalm 139:14)
“In reflecting on the life of Sister Claudia, we can see why she liked Psalm 139. The happenings in her life caused her to trust in her God who never let her down,” said Sister Betty Hopf in her commentary for Sister Claudia Lewis, who died May 23.
Born Dec. 8, 1907, in Chicago, Mary Margaret Lewis was one of five children of Frederick and Victoria (McGarry) Lewis. Both of her parents died when she was 4 years old. Sister Claudia later wrote about this loss: “‘God’s Providential care came into my life in another special blessing when James and Margaret Misgill, having just lost their own baby daughter, adopted me as their child.’”
Sister Claudia attended grade and high schools at Help of Christians and St. Leo, Chicago, and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Academy. She entered the Congregation Nov. 21, 1925, and professed first and perpetual vows Feb. 24, 1929, and Feb. 26, 1934, respectively. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.
“Just five years after she came to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, pain and loss were part of Sister Claudia’s life,” said Sister Betty. “She had her first cancer surgery in 1930. During the next 28 years, Sister Claudia had three more cancer surgeries but never gave up her faith and trust in God. Along with her good friend, Sister Elizabeth Ann Flori (RIP), Sister Claudia attended Camp Bluebird for those diagnosed with cancer. She received an award on her 94th birthday when she was honored as the longest-living cancer survivor in the state of Indiana.”
Sister Claudia began teaching in 1928 at St. Ann, Terre Haute. Her other Indiana classrooms included St. Joseph and St. Benedict, Terre Haute; St. Joseph, Hammond; Holy Trinity, New Albany; St. John the Baptist, Whiting; and St. Anthony, Indianapolis. In Illinois, she taught at St. Columbkille, St. Mel, St. Agnes, St. Angela, Maternity BVM and St. Mark, Chicago; and Marywood, Evanston. She spent two years in Massachusetts at St. Polycarp, Somerville, and Sacred Heart, Malden. Sister Claudia taught several years in California at St. Anthony, Gardena; St. Elisabeth, Van Nuys; St. Joseph, Hawthorne; St. Ambrose, Hollywood; and St. Edward, Dana Point. Sister Claudia also ministered two years in Texas at St. John, Robston. Sister Claudia returned to the Woods in 1983 and volunteered in a variety of capacities.
“Sister Claudia kept herself occupied with reading and crafts. She loved making things for others. Many of us will remember Sister Claudia by her beautiful, glowing smile that radiated the God within her,” continued Sister Betty.
“Sister Claudia felt that she was extremely blessed all of her life, and yet how many others would look upon a history of losing both parents at the age of 4, a second mother at the age of 12 and being diagnosed with cancer at the age of 23 as being blessed? Sister Claudia had many gifts, talent and interests. She loved nature. She loved animals — dog sitting brought her great joy. She loved music, art and teaching. She loved her community. She loved her family, and she loved her God.”
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Claudia was celebrated May 25, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She was preceded in death by all her siblings.
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