Sister Marie Victoria Podesta
“One of the scribes who had listened to them debating and had observed how well Jesus had answer them, now came up and put a question to him. ‘What is the first of all the commandments?’ Jesus replied, ‘This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’”
— A reading from the Gospel of Mark
This reading follows several instances when the Pharisees and scribes asked Jesus questions, to see if they could trick him. But this time, the scribe who posed this question seemed to do so sincerely, and Jesus gave him and us a straight answer as to how to live.
This reading was chosen by Sister Marie Victoria Podesta to be read at her wake, said Sister Margaret Quinlan in her commentary for Sister Marie Victoria, who Tuesday, Sept. 8. She was 92 years old and has been a Sister of Providence for 71 years.
Considering her dedication to the life and mission of the community, this reading is appropriate.
In 1994, Sister Marie Victoria received an award from former students who were then at Gordon Tech in Chicago, stating that she was the most influential teacher they had ever had. Her comment was, “I hope that I am helping them to develop close relationships with God, and leading them to set goals that will lead to a life beneficial to others. They are helping me to develop a strong faith life.”
Sister Marie Victoria was born in Chicago on Nov. 29, 1922, to Nicholas and Virginia Rocco Podesta, who had immigrated to the United States from Genoa, Italy, at the turn of the 20th Century. In one place in papers Marie Victoria had kept in her file in archives, her father is listed as a “laborer,” and in another place, as a bartender. She had one sibling, her sister Rose, who died two years ago. Rose’s death was a great loss to her. Indeed, her friends knew she was still grieving over that loss. She had nieces and nephews, who have children and grandchildren, all of whom she was very proud, exhibiting their pictures on the door to her room.
Marie Victoria was educated by the Sisters of Providence at St. Mel and at Providence High School in Chicago. She entered the Sisters of Providence in 1944, and made her first profession in 1947 and final profession in 1952. She earned a bachelor’s of science at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and her master’s at St. Louis University. Sister Florence Norton, who was studying at St. Louis at the same time and who roomed with her, remembers how, while Florence herself was laboring over her studies, Marie Victoria was so smart that she did what she had to for her studies, and then, refreshed, turned to reading for relaxation.
But meanwhile, she had gone out on mission in 1947, and for the next 20 years, ministered at seven different schools in Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Illinois and Texas. In 1969, she began 35 years of ministry at St. mark in Chicago, as teacher, assistant principal, and later as librarian. As a teacher, her forte was math. In 1994, she received a Heart of the School Award from the Archdiocese of Chicago Office of Catholic Education. Twice, she was named in the “Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers,” having been named by former students who were listed in “Who’s Who Among American Students.” She was also involved with the parish as lector and Eucharistic minister, served on the school board, counted the collection on Sunday, and knew and worked with the parishioners.
I lived with Marie Victoria many years ago in Robstown, Texas. We all worked hard, with the school, the parish, CCD in another parish, the neighbors and other folks around us, worked hard, as all of us did. But what I remember about her is her sense of humor, her funny remarks, and her ability to lighten things up. Sometimes, that was exactly what we needed!
Marie Victoria returned to reside at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 2011. She served as a volunteer receptionist and had a special ministry of prayer for Sister Diane Mason and the Providence Associates. She loved to play cards, and indeed, played pinochle until just a few weeks ago. She slipped away from us Tuesday evening.
Marie Victoria, thank you for your dedication to the mission of the Sisters of Providence. And thank you for keeping us laughing.
Funeral services for Sister Marie Victoria took place Thursday, Sept. 10, and Friday, Sept. 11, in the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
A wake took place from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., on Thursday, Sept. 10, with Vespers at 4:30 p.m.
Mass of Christian Burial took place at 11 a.m., on Friday, Sept. 11.
We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Marie Victoria in the comment section below.
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I was a “newbie” teacher when Sister Marie Victoria joined us at St. Mark’s. It was definitely a challenging situation for me (over 50 children in a classroom–split grades, etc. etc.). But whenever I started getting desperate or depressed, Sister could always make me laugh and calm down. Like so many of the SP’s, I think she had a touch of the Divine sense of humor–and it was always appreciated.