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Sister Adelaide donates handmade puppet collection to day care

Sister Adelaide Ortegel can’t help herself.

Recently, she was showing a couple of teachers how to operate the marionettes that she made so they could learn the techniques. When the music started, she quietly walked to the rack where other marionettes were resting, picked up a control bar and started dancing and moving the character in perfect rhythm.

Calling herself semi-retired at age 80, Sister Adelaide gets quite an upper-body aerobic workout as she makes marionette hands and feet move with the story line or music. She makes their heads bow and their legs even do the splits as part of her routine. Her fingers make adept work of the nearly invisible strings that become the marionette’s nerve center.

And she smiles all the time.

“They’ve had great adventures. They are a necessary part of my life. I’ve never been without them,” Sister Adelaide said.

Never been without them until now, that is.

Because of her self-imposed retirement status, Sister Adelaide has donated a collection of her “international friends” to Woods Day Care/Pre-School at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Teachers will learn how to handle the marionettes and share stories with the children who are part of the Day Care’s family.

Sister Adelaide has used the marionettes for years in the Chicago area in her “Puppets for Peace” show. Each of the puppets donated to the Day Care represents a different nation or culture.

“They love to dance,” she said. And so they do, to the beat of The Chicken Dance, Alley Cat, Rocky Top Tennessee, the Limbo and the Conga.

She’s been at this ministry for most of her life. She’s not giving it up totally. She still has a group of marionettes that depict Jesus, Mary, Joseph and an angel so that they can tell the story of Christ’s birth. She also has a collection of furry and fuzzy animals that she hand-crafted. She’s working on two more new ones, which take about a month to create. The marionettes in the international collection wear authentic costumes also made by Sister Adelaide.

“It seemed important to have these marionettes work and do something, not just sit in a closet,” Sister Adelaide said. “Working the marionettes is very hard on the shoulders after a while and I can’t do long sets of shows like I used to. I wanted to see that these puppets would have a place where they could be used and worked and developed.”

Sister Adelaide is an accomplished artist and taught art at schools for many years. She learned a lot of her techniques from her father. “My dad could make things out of anything,” she said. “He had all the tools. He could do better things for me, but he would get excited when I would make things myself.”

Sister Adelaide grew up in Wilmette, Ill., a Chicago suburb. By the time she was in high school, she worked at the Wilmette Public Library. When the librarian learned that she could do puppets, Sister Adelaide and friends starting doing weekly Saturday shows and introducing a new show each month. She and her friends soon began doing shows in other public venues. The same scenario unfolded when she entered the Sisters of Providence. When the sisters learned of her talents, they asked her perform for Congregation events. She’s been at it ever since. She’s even taught classes in making and operating puppets.

“It’s been a very happy, special kind of time. It keeps you alive and it is a joy to have other people to want to make them. There is something so different in having this little character dancing around in front of you,” Sister Adelaide said.

About the Sisters of Providence

The Sisters of Providence, a Congregation of nearly 250 women religious, with more than 280 Providence Associates, collaborate with others to create a more just and hope-filled world through prayer, education, service and advocacy. The Sisters of Providence have their motherhouse at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, located just northwest of downtown Terre Haute, Ind. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1840. Today, Sisters of Providence minister in 13 states, the District of Columbia and Asia, through works of love, mercy and justice. More information about the Sisters of Providence and their ministries may be found at SistersofProvidence.org.

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Sisters of Providence

The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, are a congregation of Roman Catholic women religious (sisters) who minister throughout the United States and Taiwan. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence in 1840. The congregation has a mission of being God's Providence in the world by committing to performing works of love, mercy and justice in service among God's people.
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