Sister Mary Charles Spalding
“ … so that the world know that you sent me, and that you loved them as you loved me.” (John 17:23)
“This prayer of Jesus for his apostles, we apply to all the latter day missionaries who are also sent by Jesus that the world may know of God’s love,” read Sister Joan Kirkpatrick in a commentary written by Sister Mary Roger Madden for Sister Mary Charles Spalding, who died March 11.
Frances Ruth Spalding was born Jan. 7, 1914, in Washington, Ind., to J. Francis and Anna (Padgett) Spalding. She was the oldest of four children. The family later relocated to Indianapolis.
“Tragedy struck the little family with the death of the father when Frances was only 9 years of age. The young mother was left to provide for the growing family. She was a practical nurse and competent seamstress and with these skills she supported her family,” read Sister Joan.
“Immediately after the father’s death and probably to relieve the mother, a great aunt took Frances to live with her in Washington, Ind. This lasted only a few months, but during that time she attended St. Simon School where she met her first Sister of Providence, Sister Modesta. She believed that the seed of her vocation was planted at that time. When she returned home to live with her family again, she attended and graduated St. Philip Neri Grade School. She later attended St. John Academy, Indianapolis,” continued Sister Joan.
Sister Mary Charles graduated from the Academy at the Woods and entered the Congregation Dec. 24, 1930.
“Her first novitiate memory is of being permitted, after much begging on her part, to attend the customary Christmas Vigil, with Midnight Mass and two low Masses on her first night in the novitiate,” read Sister Joan.
Sister Mary Charles professed first and perpetual vows Aug. 15, 1933, and 1938, respectively. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education as well as English from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. She later earned a master’s degree in education from Ball State University.
For more than 50 years, Sister Mary Charles ministered in education, starting in 1933 at All Saints, Hammond, Ind. In Indiana, she also served at St. Philip Neri, Indianapolis; Sacred Heart, Whiting; and St. Joseph, Jasper. In Illinois, she ministered at St. Andrew, St. Mel-Holy Ghost, St. Genevieve and St. Francis Borgia, Chicago; Providence, New Lenox; and St. Francis Xavier, Wilmette. She spent two years at St. Ann, Washington, D.C.
“In the 1930s, the Congregation, after much discussion, had decided to accept some missions in the South, known in missionary circles as the China of America because of the scarcity of Catholics. The first one had been in Burlington, N.C., and now one was being accepted in Fayetteville, N.C., near Fort Bragg. This was to be a true pioneer experience,” read Sister Joan.
Sister Mary Charles ministered at St. Patrick in Fayetteville from 1938 to 1943.
“While on mission in Fayetteville, Sister Mary Charles encountered the racist attitude so prevalent in the South. She was criticized because in stopping for a visit in the church, she chose to kneel in the back pews, those reserved for the African Americans parishioners,” read Sister Joan.
“St. Patrick was not to be her last experience as a missionary in one of the so-called home missions. She would later serve two years (1948-1950) at Corpus Christi, Oklahoma City,” continued Sister Joan.
Sister Mary Charles returned to the Woods in 1995 and served as a receptionist in Providence Center for several years.
“Although in the last few years Sister Mary Charles grew physically weaker, her mind remained keen and alert. We know that she has now been called home to deeper, fuller life. We, who wait here, send up to God our heartfelt prayers of gratitude for her life among us,” concluded Sister Joan.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Mary Charles was celebrated March 16, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She was preceded in death by all of her siblings and her aunt, Sister Francis Genevieve Greenwell.
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