Sister Catherine Mayer (formerly Sister Catherine Alma)
“When I considered a scripture for Sister Catherine, I thought of this one immediately, not only because of the many years Sister Catherine taught in schools, but also in the way she lived her life,” said Sister Mary Ann Phelan in her commentary for Sister Catherine Mayer, who died Jan. 29.
Below, in Sister Catherine’s own words, is a description of her life which she wrote more than 20 years ago:
“I graced this world with my presence Jan. 23, 1931 in Evanston, Illinois. [She was named Barbara Ann.] My parents were Vincent and Louise Mayer. I have one brother and one sister, who is a Servite Sister. [Both are now deceased.] I attended St. Athanasius grade school. With the influence of my seventh and eighth grade teachers, I thought about becoming a sister. I went to Providence Juniorate at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, which was a preparatory high school for girls who thought they might have a vocation to the religious life. I entered the convent in January 1949. After two and half years, I was professed with temporary vows and sent to Newburg, Indiana where I taught first and second grade. After five years of teaching, I went back to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods for six months preparation to take final vows. I took my final vows Aug. 15, 1956.
I have taught various grades from K-5th in Newburg, Ind. [St. John the Baptist], Terre Haute, Ind. [St. Joseph], Joliet, Ill. [St. Mary Carmelite], Chicago, Ill. [St. Leo, St. Mark, St. Andrew, Immaculate Conception], Chelsea, Mass. [St. Rose] I spent eleven years at a daycare center in the near inner city of Chicago [St. Columbkille]. From there I made my presence known to Galesburg where I have been ministering for the last nineteen years.”
Sister Catherine continued to minister at Costa Catholic in Galesburg, Ill. as a teacher or administrative assistant until 2002. In 2005 she returned to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and served as receptionist at the Woods Day Care/Pre-School until 2008. She then served as an assistant in the Transportation Office at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods for three years.
“Since 2011 Sister Catherine’s official ministry was prayer. I say official, because, as we know, Sister Catherine continued to bake, crochet and do beautiful needlework and other crafts, which have benefited many of our ministries. In addition to these skills, Catherine enjoyed doing puzzles. She enjoyed life, and being with friends. From time to time when possible, she would travel to visit with her good friend and band member, Sister Jean Ann Daniel, which she always enjoyed,” Sister Mary Ann continued.
“Following the call of the Gospel, and practicing our mission of Love, Mercy and Justice are in my opinion signs of a wise person. We see this in Catherine’s life.”
The following are memories from the time that she ministered at the Woods Day Care/Pre-School (WDC). Her presence there was one that conveyed her knowledge of justice, love, support, and concern for all with whom she came in contact. Her powerful prayers helped WDC, especially during problem times. The staff loved her and shared their memories and stories. She had given one a beautiful crocheted baby which she had made. Another remembered her dry sense of humor and hearty laugh. Another said she brought much joy to all. Another said they knew that her favorite treats were milk shakes and chili mac from Steak and Shake and potpies from KFC and that she was when someone surprised her with one of these!
Sister Jean Ann Daniel recalled how Sister Catherine and her friend Sister Ellen Marie Stafford would invite less fortunate people to dine with them from time to time, especially on holidays when they knew the people would be alone.
“There is a form in Sister Catherine’s file that asks: ‘How do you think you are affecting the lives of others?’ Sister Catherine had answered, ‘Bringing pleasure to others with the good things I do.’ We will miss you, Sister Catherine, your kindness and your wit, and most of all your smile,” Sister Mary Ann concluded.
Sister Catherine Mayer died Jan. 29, 2013. She was 82 years old and a Sister of Providence for 64 years. The Mass of Christian burial for Sister Catherine was celebrated Feb. 1 in the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
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