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Sister Marie Agatha Vonderheide

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Our God is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in loving kindness. Our God is good to all, our God sustains all who fall and raises up all who are bowed down. Our God is righteous in all ways and kind in all deeds. Our God is near to all who call, to all who call in truth.

Psalms 145: 8-9, 17-18

Psalm 145, along with several other psalms, describes God as gracious and merciful, rich in kindness and slow to anger. This beautiful image of God fills us with hope. Certainly, Sister Marie Agatha Vonderheide is someone who has exemplified to all of us the graciousness and kindness of God, said Sister Rosemary Schmalz in her commentary on Sister Marie Agatha, who died March 15, 2014, at the age of 92. Sister Marie Agatha had been a Sister of Providence for 73 years.

Agatha Clara Vonderheide was born April 24, 1921, in Indianapolis, Ind., to William and Philomena Kuntz Vonderheide. She was the fourth of five children.

She grew up in Holy Angels Parish and attended the parish elementary school, then staffed by the Sisters of St. Joseph. She chose to attend St. John Academy where she met the Sisters of Providence. She graduated in 1938 and worked in an office of a downtown department store for two years before entering the Sisters of Providence in July 1940.

She earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Mary-of-the-Woods College with a major in English and a minor in commercial subjects.

vondpicShe ministered as a teacher in Chicago (St. Genevieve, Providence High School), Washington, D.C. (Immaculata Seminary), Evansville, Ind. (Reitz Memorial High School), Costa Rica (St. Clare College) and New Orleans (Xavier University). She also served as a principal at John F. Kennedy High School in Manchester, Mo.

She also served as Dean of Women at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, and while studying at Catholic University for her doctorate in higher education, which she completed in 1970, she served as president of Immaculata College for two years.

After her stint as a principal, Sister Marie Agatha took a position as a pastoral associate at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Tioga, La. While in Louisiana, she developed breast cancer, and after surgery, stayed with her niece in Atlanta.

At age 67, Sister Marie Agatha began a new career as a medical secretary, serving in Atlanta.

While in Atlanta, arrangements were made for her older sister, who was living in Indianapolis at the time, to stay with her due to health issues. Sister Marie Agatha and her sister moved back to Indianapolis in 1999.

Art Criss Family provided photo

This photograph was provided by Art, Wanda and Brooke Criss.

After her sister died, Sister Marie Agatha retired and moved to Providence Hall, before staying at Lourdes Hall, Mother Theodore Hall south and Mother Theodore Hall east.

The funeral mass took place Thursday, March 20, at the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Marie Agatha in the comments section below.


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  1. Avatar Clara McKenna SMWC'64 on March 25, 2014 at 9:40 am

    Sister Marie Agatha took on the daunting task of overseeing us from her office in LeFer when we were undergraduates. I always thought of her as an elegant, beautiful lady in a category all by herself. God bless and keep her.

  2. Avatar Deacon Lloyd & Jill Sutter on March 27, 2014 at 7:33 am

    Sr. Agatha, between her convalescence in Atlanta and her return with her sister, Polly, to Indianapolis, was a member of St. Andrew Catholic Church in Roswell, GA. Not long after her arrival, she began to assist Jill Sutter and Ruth Applegate, who coordinated the parish’s RCIA process from 1987 until 2005. Now deacons Lloyd Sutter (ordained February 24, 2001) and Tom Gotschall (ordained later), along with several others – including Sr. Agatha – assisted Jill and Ruth as catechists, among others.We became very close friends with Sr. Agatha and her sister, Polly, while they shared an apartment in Roswell.

    We were privileged to visit Sr. Agatha at the Motherhouse in the summer of 2012. She was a beautiful person, a holy religious, and a wonderful friend: a tribute to all those predecessors of hers buried in the Motherhouse cemetery. We will miss her as we would a close family member! Lloyd & Jill Sutter, retired since 2007, and in Calhoun, GA.

  3. Avatar Elaine Ruppenthal on March 30, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    March 30, 2014
    I became friends with Sr. Agatha when she was a member of St. Andrew Catholic Church in Roswell, GA. I missed her when she left Roswell and kept in touch with her over the years while she was at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. We had many wonderful conversations and she will be greatly missed and will always be in my prayers. Elaine Ruppenthal

  4. Avatar Art, Wanda and Brooke Criss on September 4, 2015 at 10:50 am

    We were blessed to have Sister Marie Agatha as a member of our family. We met Sr. Marie Agatha in 2008 when we volunteered with the Sisters of Providence companioning a sister in healthcare program. We will always be grateful for Sister Becky Keller assigning our family to companion Sister as we joyfully welcomed Sister as a member of our family. We enjoyed our weekly visits, our occasional lunches in town, attending Mass with her, inviting her to our home, watching her play with our newborn daughter and listening about her experiences and her observations about politics. Wanda, Brooke and I miss her greatly and we always have Sister and the Sisters of Providence in our thought and prayers.

    Art, Wanda and Brooke Criss

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