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Sister Conrad Monrad

Sister Conrad MonradO God, you are my shepherd; I shall not want. …
You lead me to restful waters, to restore my soul.
From Psalm 23

A number of years ago, at the time of her Golden Jubilee, Sister Conrad Monrad wrote, “Be peaceful! Don’t be anxious! God’s love and Providence are not idle words. God’s love is strong, active, and faithful.”

This quote and the reading from Psalm 23 seem appropriate today as we remember Sister Conrad, said Sister Margaret Quinlan in her commentary on the life of Sister Conrad Monrad who died June 28, 2013.

Practically everyone I have spoken with the past few days about her has said the same thing: Conrad was peaceful, kind, gentle and gracious, an easy person to be with. Sister Cathy Buster recalled her making wonderful dish cloths as gifts for birthdays or Christmas, along with a bit of sweets. And, of course, she is remembered as a fine, helpful teacher; as Sister Ellen Cunningham put it, she was thoroughly dedicated to her students. “Math anxiety” was perhaps more common in those days, and she was determined to help the women overcome it if possible. In the past several years, Conrad most of the time sat out in the middle section of Mother Theodore East, perhaps reading the paper, perhaps just relaxing, but that peaceful look was on her face. How much she understood, no one could really tell, but she was always calm, peaceful, looking at us straight in the eye, with her beautiful smile, Sister Margaret continued.

Sister Conrad was born in Chicago Aug. 22, 1920 to Lorena Bauman Monrad, who was from Indiana, and Rasmus Christian Monrad, who was born in Denmark. (There is probably a story there, but I don’t know what it was…. Actually, Sister Conrad shared very little personal information.) She was preceded in death by her parents, her sister Gertrude, who died the year before she was born, and her two brothers, August and Benedict. She was baptized Gertrude Louise. She went to Walter Scott Elementary School and Hyde Park High School, graduating from high school in 1937. At that point, she felt the call to be a sister. Apparently she asked a Jesuit priest whom she knew about religious life, and he directed her to the Sisters of Providence. So she entered our community in 1938. According to Sister Alexa, her group was quite active, perhaps even noisy, but Sister Conrad was the quiet one. She made first profession in 1941 and final profession in 1947.

Sister Conrad Monrad, left, with Sister Margaret Quinlan in 2012.

Sister Conrad Monrad, left, with Sister Margaret Quinlan in 2012.

Sister Conrad earned a BA in Latin from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, and a Master’s degree in mathematics from Marquette University. Beginning in 1941-1956 she taught elementary schools in Indiana at Sacred Heart in Evansville; St. Joseph, St. Catherine and Nativity all in Indianapolis; St. Mary in Lafayette; St. Ann in New Castle and Holy Trinity in New Albany and in Illinois at St. Mary Carmelite in Joliet and St. Mel in Chicago. She taught at the high school level at Central Catholic High School in Fort Wayne, Ind.; at Mother Theodore Guerin High School in River Grove, Ill. and at Marywood in Orange, Calif.

Sister Conrad served on the faculty of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College for 27 years. In 1966 she began her work there as an instructor and later as chair of the Math Department. In 1975 she began work in WED, the external degree program. During her many years of teaching in the external degree program, Sister Conrad was well known as a kind and patient instructor who did all she could to help students get a good start at the college and meet their math requirements. One current staff member said,” I loved her as an instructor. And she was very helpful to me as I went through a divorce.”

In a few years the program began to use computers, rather than using only snail mail for sending assignments. Sister Conrad was part of that movement, of course. In her file in Archives are some pictures taken in 1989 at a workshop in math and computer systems, given to interested sisters here during the summer, as she dragged us into the computer world.

Upon her retirement as a full-time faculty member at the college in 1999, when she was named professor emeriti, Sister Conrad lived in Florida with her good friend, Sister Luke, until 2006. Besides her continued WED work, Sister Conrad did things at home that helped Sister Luke to be able to work in the parish. In 2006, Sister Conrad came to the health care facility at Saint Mary of the Woods, where her ministry is listed as “Prayer for students.”

In 1973, the National Council of the Teachers of Mathematics published a booklet entitled “Topics for Mathematics Clubs.” Sister Conrad wrote an article for it titled, “Infinity and Transfinite Numbers,” that includes such topics as Denumerable Sets and the Cardinality of Infinite Sets. (Sounds like Greek to me!) More than twenty years later, Lindsay Pacheco, a young woman who lived in Maine, came across the article, which piqued her interest in Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and its author with the unusual name. Lindsey enrolled in the WED program, until the last semester of her senior year, when she became a campus student. Just before that last semester, Lindsay and her mother decided to visit the Woods. Lindsay tells how they flew from Maine to Indianapolis, and arrived at the Woods on, literally, a dark and stormy Saturday night. In the morning they drove in pouring rain to the church, trying to figure out what door to come in without getting drenched. They saw a woman, marching up the sidewalk, very purposefully, and they asked her how to get in the church. This purposeful woman, of course, was Sister Conrad. When Lindsay was amazed at the coincidence of meeting her, whom she had been in contact with in the WED program, Conrad replied, “not coincidence, but Providence!” Later, Lindsay was able to visit her dear friend in Florida three times. The last time their conversation was difficult because of Sister Conrad’s condition, frustrating for Conrad. But walking on the beach, which she loved and enjoying the thread of their relationship was a gift. Lindsay, like the rest of us, enjoyed Conrad’s quiet presence, her thoughtful, loving, deliberate ways. That is what we will all miss. Conrad, we thank you for who you were and are, concluded Sister Margaret.

The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Conrad Monrad was held July 11, 2013 in the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She lived 74 years as a Sister of Providence.

We invite you to share your memories of Sister Conrad Monrad in the comments section below.

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  1. Avatar Jeanie Reime Heller on July 1, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    Sister Conrad was always generous with her time and her caring. I was a math major at the Woods, graduating in 1970, and Sister Conrad was my advisor and taught a good amount of my courses. Since I didn’t want to teach and didn’t like science, she always worried about what I was going to do with my math degree. She suggested I take some business courses and the rest is history….. I loved business and went on to get my MBA after I left the Woods. I was fortunate to get a job in the investment business…..and that has been what I’ve done ever since. If it hadn’t been for her, I may have never found that direction. She said that when I started my part-time investment business job (vs. camp counselor before) while I was still a student, she saw me just light up….and she knew we were going in the right direction.

    Sister Conrad became more special to me over the years as I came back to the Woods….and with my 9 years on the SMWC Board of Trustees, I was over there with great frequency…..so we spent a lot of time together. She was invested in my life and I was in hers….and we developed a wonderful friendship. We continued to communicate after she moved to FL and once she got back to the Woods to live, I made sure to check in with her often, especially with her declining health. I was at Sister Jeanne Knoerle’s funeral service a couple of weeks ago. I was told Sister Conrad was not doing well at all. Of course, I visited her that day….a brief visit because she was sleeping all the time I was there – except when I walked in…..she opened her eyes and smiled that wonderful smile of hers….and then returned to her sleep. I am glad she is at peace and in heaven, continuing to guide all the lives she cared so much about. I plan to come to the Woods for Sister Conrad’s services next week.

  2. Avatar Sue Buchanan on July 6, 2013 at 12:28 am

    I mave mahy good memories of Sister Conrad through the years when we lived together. She was always a quiet caring stability in my life. We have prayed, laughed and cried together and she means a lot to me. It is funny that last week I kept wondering how she was. Her smile and her ways will not be forgotten. Sue Buchanan

  3. Avatar Dan Bauman on July 19, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    Re: Sister Conrad Monrad

    In the 70’s Sister Conrad reminisced with us about her Uncle Harry (my father) bringing his two sons (my brother Ben and myself) to the city with a load of farm produce. She observed that Harry was proud of his children. He and my Aunt Lorena (Sister Conrad’s mother) had each named a son Ben after their father Ben. That was the depth of the depression in the mid 30’s so she remembered for a lifetime the supply of popcorn which she could eat as much as she wanted. Dad probably played math tricks with her as he did with us. He didn’t have much schooling but he could tell the number of board feet in a pile of lumber without measuring or paper & pencil.

    By the time I was old enough to start remembering things (I started 1st grade in 1938) Sister was not around so I didn’t know her in those years. Aunt Edith had worked in rectories as housekeeper so I assumed that had something to do with her sister Lorena’s daughter entering a Convent. We never talked about it and Sister Conrad did not bring it up. Brother Cletus was a 2nd cousin and a bit distant so I doubt he was a factor.

    Aunt Edith and Aunt Lorena carried water to those nice men working in the field next door when they were teenagers. The farm next door was Tom Capper of Capper’s Farmer Journal. He also was involved in the Chicago Stockyards. He would collect casual labor from the street corner pickup and have them muck out the stockyards and load it on railroad cars. Then the cars would be delivered to a siding at Star City along with one or two of the workmen. Teams and wagons would be brought from the farm to be loaded and then spread on the field. Uncle Chris was fresh off the boat from Denmark with no experience of farm work but eager to earn his way. Imagine Sister Conrad in a male body and you can see why Uncle Chris was a favorite wherever he went. Aunt Lorena knew a good thing when she talked to him and the rest is history. But Sister Conrad nor any of the family would tell me this – it came from cousins who were Sister Conrad’s age.

    Aunt Lorena and cousin Ben took me along to visit Sister Conrad somewhere (probably New Castle) after Ben came out of the service. I think my Mother was along – she was a great letter writer and Ben really liked his Aunt Joe (Sophia Josephine) as did Sister Conrad and Aunt Lorena. And I stopped in Fort Wayne to spend a delightful two hours with just the two Sisters (I wish I could remember that Sister’s name) and I. That must have been the mid 50’s.

    We did get to visit River Grove when our children were quite small. The Sister with the guitar impressed them along with my relative. “How does Sister Conrad always have such nice companions? Don’t you know, Sisters of Providence are all nice but in different ways.”

    It was in the 70’s that we had more quality time with Sister Conrad. Our five children were old enough to make the most of our relative. We had moved to the western tip of New York State and Sister came to Edinboro, PA so that let us get together several times. Celia (dob 1960) told her siblings how to get the most out of Sister. Patricia showed that with Sister you didn’t need to wait till you were two to read. And Dad full of his recent PhD Education degree was sharing computer experiences. Sister and I shared a love of math so what would you expect?

    The 70’s and 80’s were also times to come to the Woods. Celia and Patricia each were in a program there and I even talked to a group – I think it was a program about school consolidation. We all were enriched by visits at the Woods. My wife Hilary shared a love for quiet communication and appreciation of so many shared thoughts.

    Uncle Chris left me with pleasant images of Denmark so I was prepared to start and end a summer in Europe in 1958 in Copenhagen. Our Daughter Patricia was an exchange student in Denmark her junior year of high school. Our Daughter Ann was in Germany when Sister Conrad was looking for her roots in Denmark.

    Sister Conrad was a role model for all her cousins – it was just that most of us felt we never lived up to the mark. She set a high standard. Her quiet ways had your attention.

    During her later years of travel, she and another from Sisters of Providence would visit several of our children in their homes. The visits were welcome on both sides. Another generation is enthused by Sister Conrad.

    Dan Bauman

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