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All Saints Day

All Saints Day
By Sister Donna Butler

In the shadow of death
a cemetery
was the place
I called
home.

In that dwelling place
of saints
gone before us
solitude and silence
tasted
like a banquet.

Both my grandfather and my dad were superintendents of the Catholic cemetery in Ft. Wayne, Ind. Our house was in the cemetery and the last name of our next-door neighbor, believe it or not, was Graves.

My father was a very pastoral person and he considered the grounds a reliquary of saints.

Standing with the Saint Mother Theodore Guerin statue at the Ft. Wayne, Ind., mausoleum dedicated to Mother Theodore Guerin are, from left, Sister Mary Ann Fox, Sister Jane Marie Osterholt (RIP), and Sister Donna Butler.

Today, a mausoleum dedicated to Saint Mother Theodore Guerin stands where my home was located. In front of the mausoleum, a statue donated by the Ankenbrook family of Ft. Wayne, honors Saint Mother Theodore Guerin as foundress of Catholic education in the city.

There are two Sisters of Providence buried in the cemetery, Sister Marie Joseph Pardeillan and Sister Lawrence Cheminant. Sister Marie Joseph was principal of St. Augustine Academy and superior of the house. Sister Lawrence was in charge of cooking for seven sisters and 23 boarders, taking care of two cows and doing the laundry.

In the summer of 1849, both of these sisters responded to an urgent need that arose as the first of three cholera epidemics struck Ft. Wayne. St. Augustine’s was turned into a temporary hospital for these patients. These two sisters, risking their own health, saved many lives.

Sister Marie Joseph, who was of frail health herself, died in 1851 in her mid-50s. Sister Lawrence was tending a cholera victim late on Friday, Aug. 17, 1854 and she herself died of cholera the next day at the age of 36.

They are among the many less well-known saints we celebrate on this feast day. Their goodness is primarily known only to God and to those whose lives they touched.

Who is a less well-known saint, living or deceased, who has made a real difference in your life?

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Sister Donna Butler

Sister Donna Butler has been a Sister of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods for more than 60 years. Sister Donna has served in elementary education, parish ministry, diocesan social justice, as well as the Congregation’s liturgy office, archives department and social justice outreach. She also administered as the director of the Providence Volunteer Ministry. Sister Donna currently volunteers in outreach with Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College students.

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