Sister Petra Daschbach
“One thing alone can possess me — You, Lord, in Your white Eucharist.” (A prayer by Father Fitzgerald that was discovered in Sister Petra’s belongings)
“After her teaching days were over, Sister Petra continued her ministry of presence in every parish where she happened to assist at Mass. The Sacrifice of the Mass was the center of her life and even when traveling, her first question was always: ‘Where are the nearest churches and what time are the Masses?’ Over the years in numerous parish churches, she met and ministered to the devout men and women who came to know her through her daily presence with them at the early morning Mass,” said Sister Mary Roger Madden in her commentary for Sister Petra Daschbach, who died Jan. 13.
One of nine children of Albert and Estelle (McCloskey) Daschbach, Mary Elizabeth Daschbach entered this world July 8, 1919, in Pittsburgh.
“Mary’s education through 12 years of elementary and secondary schools was in public schools in Pittsburgh with secular teachers. Not until she, like her three older sisters, entered Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College did she meet Sisters of Providence. This encounter, flourishing within the ambience of the Woods, fostered in her the desire to become a Sister of Providence and led her to request admission to the Congregation. On Feb. 1, 1939, Mary came to the novitiate, receiving the religious name Sister Petra,” continued Sister Mary Roger.
Sister Petra pronounced first and perpetual vows Jan. 23, 1942, and 1948, respectively. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Latin from the college and a master’s degree in Latin from DePaul University, Chicago.
Throughout her four decades “of teaching, Sister Petra was known primarily as a teacher of Latin, although in almost every one of her assignments she also taught English and religion, Latin scholars being, as we know, a rarity,” said Sister Mary Roger.
Sister Petra’s first classroom was at St. Philip Neri, Indianapolis, in 1942. In Indiana, she also ministered at Reitz Memorial High School, Evansville; St. Rose Academy, Vincennes; the Aspirancy, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods; St. John Academy, Indianapolis; Central Catholic High School, Fort Wayne; Schulte High School, Terre Haute; and Our Lady of Providence High School, Clarksville. Sister Petra also spent several years at Providence High School, Chicago. Her pedagogical ministry took her to St. Rose High School, Chelsea, Mass., and St. Mary, Fredericksburg, Va. Sister Petra’s longest tenure was more than two decades at Immaculata Prep, Washington, D.C.
“From 1989 to 2008, Sister Petra ministered at Saint Ann Parish in Washington, D.C., teaching Latin to upper level students in the parish school and serving as receptionist in the parish rectory. Now she had the opportunity to renew friendships with the many students she had taught during those two decades at Immaculata and with their families. The unique gift God had given to Sister Petra was her ability to reach out to persons of every age, her students, their parents, and most especially the very young,” said Sister Mary Roger.
“The hundreds of names on her Christmas card list give evidence of her lasting impact on the lives of others. What was that gift that enabled her to win so many friends? For one thing, in her presence one felt oneself to be the center of her attention and interest. Even though we knew others got the same reception, for the moment we felt we were valued by her,” said Sister Mary Roger.
“These last months have been painful for all of us who loved Sister Petra. God, merciful as always, did not prolong the agony. He said her name, Mary, and she went, giving herself with one small sigh to that ultimate act of total self-giving to her God who is Love. May it be so for all of us,” concluded Sister Mary Roger.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Petra was celebrated Jan. 18, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She was preceded in death by all of her siblings.
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