Sister Alma Louise Mescher
“Sister Alma Louise was a gift to many, many persons, with a wide range of interests and talents and an insatiable willingness to learn new things. She was primarily always a teacher, I believe, whether in or out of a classroom. What she knew, she wanted to share with others, and I think she always did,” said Sister Jeanne Knoerle in her commentary for Sister Alma Louise Mescher, who died June 9.
The oldest of four children, Marjorie Anne Mescher was born Jan. 6, 1915, in Burlington, Iowa, to Alois and Florence (Krueper) Mescher. The family moved to California where the children attended Holy Cross Grade School, Los Angeles. Sister Alma Louise graduated from Manual Arts High School, Los Angeles. She then entered Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles where she earned a bachelor’s degree in education.
“Sister Alma Louise always felt a call to religious life and felt that it was a fortuitous circumstance that brought her to know the Sisters of Providence, though she had not gone to a Sisters of Providence school before she entered the Western Province novitiate in Anaheim, Calif., on Aug. 9, 1937,” shared Sister Jeanne.
Sister Alma Louise professed first and final vows Jan. 23, 1940, and 1946, respectively. She earned another bachelor’s degree, this time in biology, from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. Sister Alma Louise would later earn a master’s degree as well as a doctorate in biology from Marquette University and the University of Notre Dame, respectively.
Sister Alma Louise commenced teaching at St. Elisabeth Grade School, Van Nuys, Calif. In California she also ministered at St. Therese, Alhambra, and Marywood, Anaheim. In Terre Haute, she taught at St. Patrick and Schulte high schools. She also spent five years at Marywood High School, Evanston, Ill. From 1962 to 1981, Sister Alma Louise was a well respected biology professor at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.
“I know of almost no students who did not think Sister Alma Louise was one of their best teachers,” said Sister Jeanne. “And one of the most intriguing things students knew about Sister Alma Louise was that she had specialized in the area of mosquito genetics — even to the point of feeding them with her own blood from her own arm, which she said was the easiest way to do it. ‘Even the smallest of God’s creatures,’ she said, ‘are marvelously coordinated. Being a biologist afforded me the opportunity to discover the beautiful organization of life itself.’
“During the Civil Rights era Sister Alma Louise and Sister Mary Jean Mark (RIP), then a history professor at the college, went with five students from the Woods and Indiana State University to Albany, Ga., to participate in the SCOPE project under the aegis of Martin Luther King Jr. — a project which sought to get as many eligible black persons registered to vote as possible. During the day they taught children, then registered voters in the afternoon and then taught adults to read in the evening. It was a life-altering experience for her, she said,” continued Sister Jeanne.
From 1982 to 1990, Sister Alma Louise served as a pastoral associate at the Parish of Our Divine Savior, Chico, Calif. She also ministered as a pastoral associate at St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Charleston, Ill. Considered “retired” in 1991, Sister Alma Louise continued to teach at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College until 2003.
In the midst of her teaching ministries, Sister Alma Louise found time for “running a Sunday School program, leading RCIA and Bible study; volunteering at the U.S. Penitentiary and the Correctional Center at Carlisle, Ind.; developing a college-based program in gerontology; teaching workshops on nutrition, holistic health and the physiology of aging; and serving as president of the Indiana Allied Health Association,” said Sister Jeanne.
“One thing I think many of us were happy Sister Alma Louise decided to do was to paint. Those of us who live at the Woodland Inn are the enjoyers of several of her very beautiful water colors which adorn our walls. Some also hang at various places around the motherhouse,” continued Sister Jeanne.
“Sister Alma Louise said in some reflective notes she wrote fairly recently, ‘I have always appreciated the many opportunities we have had as Sisters of Providence for enriching experiences in prayer, spirituality and education. And I have particularly appreciated living in community with so many loving and sharing persons whose lives have touched mine in our journey toward eternal life.’ And those of us who have lived with and loved Sister Alma Louise and shared her life and her enthusiasm for everything that lives, I am sure would echo those words,” reflected Sister Jeanne.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Alma Louise was celebrated June 17, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She was preceded in death by all of her siblings.
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