Sister Mary Magdalen Schwartz
“If anyone would serve me, let that one follow me.” (John 12:26)
“Armella Ann Schwartz, who was born to Stanley and Joan (Malecke) Schwartz Sept. 26, 1922, in Chicago, seemed destined to a life of service and of following Jesus wherever his invitation led her. Her faith journey began with her baptism and soon she was attending Catholic schools,” began Sister Ann Casper in her commentary for Sister Mary Magdalen Schwartz.
One of four children, Sister Mary Magdalen attended two grade schools in Chicago: Our Lady of Victory and St. Viator.
“Mary Mag, as we all called her, first became acquainted with the Sisters of Providence while attending Providence High School in Chicago. Evidently, it was the practice of eighth-grade teachers at that time to take students to different high schools, have them take the entrance test and, hopefully, receive a scholarship from one of them. When she took the test at Providence High School, she told her companions, ‘I hope I don’t get this one!’ But ‘get this one’ she did and entered as a freshman in 1939,” shared Sister Ann.
“It was the beginning of a love affair with Providence High School and later for Providence-St. Mel (PSM) and its mission to educate African-American children,” said Sister Ann.
Sister Mary Magdalen entered the Congregation Feb. 2, 1941. “She left the novitiate for a short time and re-entered in 1943, pronouncing her first and perpetual professional vows on Jan. 23, in 1945 and 1950, respectively,” continued Sister Ann.
Sister Mary Magdalen earned a bachelor’s degree in math from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a master’s degree in physical science from the University of Notre Dame.
Sister Mary Magdalen began teaching in 1945 at Holy Cross, Indianapolis. In Indiana she also ministered at St. Philip Neri, Indianapolis; Central Catholic High School, Fort Wayne; and Reitz Memorial High School, Evansville. She taught one year at St. Rose, Chelsea, Mass., and six years at John F. Kennedy High School, Manchester, Mo., where she also ministered as a principal. Sister Mary Magdalen’s classrooms in Illinois included St. Mel, Providence High School and Providence-St. Mel, Chicago; Marywood, Evanston; St. Mary-Sacred Heart, Joliet; and St. Dennis, Lockport.
From 1977 to 1979, Sister Mary Magdalen served as registrar at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. For two years she was the administrator of the Congregation’s Regional Development Office in Park Ridge, Ill. She returned to Providence-St. Mel in 1985 and for the next eight years ministered as a teacher, director of communications and/or the planned giving coordinator. From 1994 to 1997, Sister Mary Magdalen ministered as an area assistant in Holistic Health Care in Chicago. Before returning to the Woods in 2000, she was a tutor at Providence Family Services, Chicago, and Mother Theodore Guerin High School, River Grove, Ill.
“A colleague during her PSM years wrote upon hearing of her death: ‘I think what I shall always remember most about Sister Mary Magdalen is her unquenchable optimism and good cheer. She believed in her students, her colleagues and her Sisters of Providence. Although I haven’t seen her in almost 20 years, the image of her smile is fixed in my memory. She was one of those people you respected so much that you never wanted to disappoint her. May her soul be bound up in the bond of life eternal,’” said Sister Ann.
Paul Adams, long-time president of PSM, presented the President’s Award to Sister Mary Magdalen in 1992.
“At her death, Paul stated: ‘Providence-St. Mel is a better place because of Sister Mary Magdalen’s caring spirit. She dared to be different. In our struggle to make this world a better place, she led us with her intellect, her passion and a beautiful smile. I shall not forget the spirit of the Sisters of Providence she shared with me. It will always be with me,” shared Sister Ann.
“A sister-colleague recalled: ‘Paul thought the world of her, as if she were sitting at the right hand of God. He depended on her for counsel and guidance. She was a jack-of-all-trades. She had an effervescing personality, liked to joke and especially liked making puns. She was very giving, yet humble in what she was doing and didn’t see anything unusual about it,’” continued Sister Ann.
“The last move in Mary Mag’s long lifetime of mobility occurred Jan. 16 when she once again answered God’s call and followed Jesus — this time to the heavenly banquet prepared for those who serve. As her friend said, ‘May her soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life,’” concluded Sister Ann
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Mary Magdalen was celebrated Jan. 23, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She was preceded in death by her three brothers and her sister, Sister Edna, formerly Sister Mark, Schwartz.
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