Sister Mary Terence Haag
“The spirit of God has been given to me, for God has anointed me. God has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up hearts that are broken, to proclaim liberty to captives, freedom to those in prison, to comfort those who mourn.”
— A reading from the Prophet, Isaiah (61:1-3)
This reading from Isaiah seemed appropriate, since according to so many, this describes what Sister Mary Terence Haag did so well for so long, said Sister Margaret Quinlan in her commentary for Sister Mary Terence Haag, who died October 7, 2017, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. She was 100 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 82 years.
Sister Mary Terence was born in Montgomery, Indiana, on Dec. 18, 1916, to Terence and Susie Brewer Haag. She had one sister and six brothers; her brother Joe is still living. She grew up on the family farm near St. Michael’s, which is near Loogootee. She attended public grade schools and St. Peter’s School in Montgomery, and public high school and high school here at the Woods. Mary Terence’s great-grandmother was a Guthneck. She had two or three sisters who were among the early Sisters of Providence. Mary Terence herself entered community in 1935 and made her final profession in 1944.
She would tell the story about how one summer when she came home, someone in the office of the home superiors decided she should be in charge of cooking for the infirmary, assuming that a farm girl would know how to cook. She didn’t know how, but she did it! Actually, she did it with the help of a sister who came early in the morning and late at night to peel potatoes or do dishes or do anything else that needed to be done. That was Sister Gertrude Clare.
Sister Mary Terence Haag
Teacher for 35 years in schools in Indiana and Illinois
In Indiana: St. Patrick. Indianapolis (1938-39); St. Catherine, Indianapolis (1939-43); St. Rita, Indianapolis (1944-46); St. Bridget, Indianapolis (1946-54); St. John, Evansville (1955-67); St. Anthony, Indianapolis (1967-70); St. Bridget, Indianapolis (1970-71); St. Francis Day Nursery, Indianapolis (1971-73); St. Ann, Indianapolis (1979-85).
In Illinois: St. Leo, Chicago (1944); Our Lady of Sorrows, Chicago (1954-55).
Mary Terence taught grades one and two in schools in Indiana and Illinois from 1938 to 1970 – that is for 32 years – 32 years with first and second graders! After 1970, she ministered in parishes, as a home visitor and caring for the needy. As the obituary stated it, “her love for the poor was legendary.” She fought for them, prayed for them, cried for them, expected a lot from them.
In 1980, she became a visitor to the homes of the elderly and needy in Indianapolis central city parishes of St. Anthony, St. Bridget, St. Monica and Sts. Peter and Paul, a ministry to which she committed herself until the age of 97. She helped the needy, the sick, the shut-ins. Sister Susan Dinnin told me that at one time, she was working with young single African-American mothers who had jobs cleaning railroad cars, but had no one to help care for their little children. So, Mary Terence opened a nursery for the children, often staying open until 9 or 10 at night.
Sister Charles Van Hoy recalls how the sisters living at St. Anthony decided at one point to visit people at a nearby mental hospital. They decided to go every Thursday evening, as they put it, “come hell or high water.” Unfortunately, the high water actually happened. One stormy Thursday evening, Mary Terence got stuck in high water, and the rest of the sisters had to wade in to get her unstuck.
When the parish of St. Bridget’s was merged with other parishes, the situation was especially difficult, especially since the African-American people in the parish had the tradition of the “mother church,” the church where they had been baptized, and so the merger was particularly distressing for them. But Mary Terence went to visit in their homes, so she became their “mother church.”
In 1992, the Ladies Auxiliary for the Knights of St. Peter Claver recognized Mary Terence for her outstanding devotion to the sick and shut-ins, needy families, the church and the community of St. Bridget. In granting this ward, the Ladies Auxiliary noted that “you may also find her in a home doing dishes, defrosting the refrigerator, or going to get medicine if her funds would allow.”
In 2014, she returned to the Woods, residing in Mother Theodore Hall, dedicating herself to a ministry of prayer. She was a woman of prayer and deep faith.
Funeral services for Sister Mary Terence took place on Wednesday, October 11, in the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
A Wake took place from 9 to 11 a.m., with Mass of Christian Burial taking place at 11 a.m.
We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Mary Terence in the comment section below.
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