Sister Leona (Mary Charlene) Walsh
“Love is always patient and kind, it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or self-seeking; it is not prone to anger, neither does it brood over injuries.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)
“These qualities of love, reflected in St. Paul’s, words seemed to serve as the lens and guide for the way Sister Leona Walsh desired to live her life, as a woman of faith, and a witness of her trust in her loving Provident God. There seems to be a constant theme among her friends and those who have ministered and lived with her — describing Sister Leona as generous, kind and selfless in her concern for the needs of others,” said Sister Jenny Howard in her commentary for Sister Leona Walsh, who died June 10.
Leona Marie Walsh entered this world 15 minutes after her identical twin sister, Sister Emily, on Sept. 21, 1930. The twins were born in Saginaw, Mich., to Charles and Frances (Wolfarth) Walsh. They had one older brother, Frank (RIP).
“Sadly, the twins’ mother passed away nine days after their birth. They grew up with the loving care of their father and were always grateful to their Aunt Leona for the help she gave them,” shared Sister Jenny.
Sister Leona attended grade school at Emerson and St. Mary in Saginaw. She graduated from St. Mary High School, also in Saginaw. After earning a bachelor’s degree in French from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, she entered the Congregation Feb. 14, 1953, and received the religious name Sister Mary Charlene. Sister Leona professed first and perpetual vows Aug. 15, 1955, and 1960, respectively. She later earned a master’s degree in library science from Catherine Spalding College, Louisville, Ky.
Sister Leona began teaching in 1955 at St. Catherine, Indianapolis. Her other grade school ministries in Indianapolis included St. Philip Neri and Holy Cross. She spent one year teaching at Our Lady of Providence High School, Clarksville, Ind. In Chicago, she ministered at St. Sylvester and St. Mel. From 1963 to 1976, she taught and/or served as a librarian at Ladywood High School, which was later known as Ladywood-St. Agnes, in Indianapolis.
“One student, who had been a boarder during those years, commented: ‘I don’t know when Sister Mary Charlene ever slept. She had her teaching duties and preparations, she was sacristan and was on duty most of the time as our hall moderator. She had a good sense of humor and seemed to know just how far to let things go before needing to step in. In good times and hard times, it seemed she was always there for us,’” continued Sister Jenny.
In 1976, Sister Leona returned to the Woods to minister as a librarian at the college. She served in this position until 2002.
“Sister Leona was hired as the periodicals librarian and began work for her new boss … Sister Emily! For the next 25 years, Sister Leona ministered as cataloguer in the college library, taking on the daunting task of putting all of the library holdings online — an undertaking that took at least four years to complete. In the summer of 2002, at the time of her retirement, Sister Leona was awarded Faculty Emerita Status for her long and distinguished service at the college,” said Sister Jenny.
Upon her retirement from the college, Sister Leona kept busy volunteering in various offices at the motherhouse.
“Over the years, people have admitted that it is sometimes difficult to tell Sisters Leona and Emily apart. One sister who lives with them at the Woodland Inn explained, ‘actually, it’s really simple — just watch which one walks with her hands behind her back. That’s Sister Leona!’ said Sister Jenny.
“You can be assured that a time when Sister Leona never had her hands behind her back was when she was holding 13 cards and playing bridge. She enjoyed being with friends, and whether it be an evening of cards or a bridge marathon weekend, Sister Leona was always up for a good game, hoping for the chance to bid and make a slam,” shared Sister Jenny.
“A few short months ago, Sister Leona received the diagnosis that a new cancer had been discovered. Unlike her previous cancer, through which she had patiently and bravely battled for almost a year and a half and was eventually healthy and “cancer-free,” this new cancer was not likely to respond in the same way. At that point, Sister Leona made the courageous decision to forego any new kind of treatment.
“As she shared her decision with family and friends, the first words out of her mouth were, ‘I am at peace.’ And she was. She was an inspiration. Throughout her time of illness she endured whatever came and never complained. She was so especially grateful to Robin Royce, the nurses and staff members of Mother Theodore Hall who cared for her, and the many family members and friends who visited, wrote and prayed for her,” said Sister Jenny.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Leona was celebrated June 18, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She is survived by her twin sister, Sister Emily, SP.
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