Sister Mary Isabelle Welsh
“Hark! My Lover — here he comes, springing across the mountains, leaping across the hills.” (Song of Songs 2:8)
“Sister Mary Isabelle chose this scriptural passage to be read at her wake. I was a bit surprised when I saw her choice, since the reading is so emotional, even sensual, and Isa was so down to earth, so practical, but see, we don’t always know one another so well, do we?” said Sister Margaret Quinlan in her commentary for Sister Mary Isabelle Welsh, “Isa,” who died Dec. 25, 2010.
“Isabelle Mary Welsh was born in Johnstone, Scotland, on June 30, 1918, to James and Catherine (McHugh) Welsh. When Isa celebrated her golden jubilee, she and family members traveled to England, Ireland and Scotland. In her file in Archives is a typed description of that trip, single-spaced, 17 pages long! A high point of the trip was visiting the town in Scotland where the family had lived. She wrote, ‘ … in front of the house where I was born, I’ll never forget the feeling of deep peace that came over me! I felt that I was HOME!’ She also wrote about the emotions she felt visiting the church where her parents had been married,” continued Sister Margaret.
“When Isa was two, her family moved to the United States, settling in Peru, Ind., because her paternal grandmother had settled there seven years previously. Among her grandmother’s nine children, was Sister Mary Andrea Welsh, (RIP) Isa’s aunt, known by us in community as ‘Scottie,’” said Sister Margaret.
Isabelle Mary attended grade school at St. Charles Borromeo in Peru. She graduated from the Juniorate at the Woods and entered the Congregation Jan. 11, 1936, and professed first and perpetual vows Aug. 15, 1938, and 1944, respectively. Sister Mary Isabelle earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a master’s degree in education from Indiana State University.
Sister Mary Isabelle began teaching at Immaculate Conception, Norwood Park, Ill., in 1938. In Indiana, she ministered at St. John the Baptist, Whiting; St. Joseph, Jasper; Old Cathedral School, Vincennes; St. Charles, Bloomington; St. Ann, Terre Haute; St. James and St. Andrew, Indianapolis; Holy Trinity and Catholic Central, New Albany; and Our Lady of Providence High School, Clarksville. Sister Mary Isabelle spent three years at Dunblane, Washington, D.C., and four years teaching in Los Angeles at Our Lady of the Angels and St. Teresa of Avila School.
In 1979, the left teaching and began a new ministry as a house mother and parish visitor at St. Elizabeth Home and St. Philip Neri Parish, Indianapolis, respectively. From 1981 to 1987, she ministered as a secretary at Fatima Retreat House, Indianapolis. In 1987, Sister Mary Isabelle returned to the Woods and volunteered in a variety of capacities.
“Isa grew up with five brothers, all of whom are in heaven. Her brother Bud at the time of her golden jubilee celebration, described her as a little girl, writing, ‘Isa had a gift for enjoying life and laughter, and was sometimes quick to tears at the misfortunes of others. In order for her to hold her place in the activities of the neighborhood [she was one of the few girls around], she had to be willing and able to hold her own in the games. She climbed the apple and cherry trees, swiped grapes from the neighbor’s grape arbors along with the rest of us. No one remembers how many lost, strayed, underfed cats and dogs she brought home to feed and nurse,’” shared Sister Margaret.
“Isa has been described by her sisters as loving and generous. She loved doing things for people, loved to be on the go, loved to visit family members and friends. We lived together in Clarksville during those terrible winters in the late 1970s, when we were literally snowed in. Isa stomped from window to window in the community room, shaking her fist at the snow, repeating over and over, ‘Ugly old stuff! Ugly old stuff!’ She was so happy when the snow finally melted enough for her to get out and about again.
“Isa herself wrote, ‘I have had a wonderful life! God has been so good to me!’ In recent months, she has often talked of ‘going home.’ She would say to me, ‘I am going home,’ with a wonderful smile on her face. Or she would ask, ‘When are we going home?’ or ‘Are you going home?’ And indeed on Christmas morning, Isa went home to God. What a wonderful Christmas gift!” concluded Sister Margaret.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Mary Isabelle was celebrated Jan. 4, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding.
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