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Sister Marie Paul Haas

The Miriam Webster dictionary has a definition of institution that relates to persons. The definition states, “Any familiar, long-established person; a fixture; someone who is very well known in a particular field of place.”

Today, we celebrate such a person – Sister Marie Paul Haas. Her particular field was applied music, the primary place she practiced it was St. Francis Borgia School in Chicago, where she was a familiar and long-established person – for 56 years – indeed, a fixture! I would say that she more than qualifies to be an institution, said Sister Ann Casper in her commentary for Sister Marie Paul Haas, who passed away on March 30, 2019. She was 91 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 73 years.

Sister Ann continued: Mary Mardelle Haas was born to Paul and Mary Mardelle Bouschey Haas on May 27, 1927, in Terre Haute, Indiana. She has one brother, Paul Jr., and three sisters, now deceased – Harry-ette, Sylvia and Martha. She attended both St. Ann and St. Patrick Schools in Terre Haute and graduated from Central Catholic High School. She entered the Sisters of Providence on July 22, 1945, shortly after her graduation. She was received into the novitiate on January 23, 1946, and made first and perpetual profession of vows on the same date, in 1948 and 1953, respectively.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in music education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a master’s degree in the same field from Indiana State University.

Marie Paul always taught applied music, but she was not always at St. Francis Borgia (it just seems that way). In fact, she taught 14 years in other places, managing in those 14 years to teach applied music in California, North Carolina, Illinois and Indiana. All total, she taught for 70 years!

A former student, Dr. Bob Farnsworth, commented on the Sisters of Providence website, “Sister Marie Paul was an amazing person – and a wonderful colleague for many years. Her dedication to teaching, music and the welfare of her students was a credit to the Sisters of Providence. She could be quite stern – but there was never any doubt that she had a kind hear and wanted the best for everyone. I never met anyone who did not respect her dedication and professionalism. She set a standard – and kept to it.”

Her “sternness” and “setting of standards” is exemplified in a story deemed a classic by Sister Maureen Sheahan, who lived with Sister Marie Paul for many years.

“At one of Chicago’s downtown St. Patrick’s Day Parades, Marie Paul was upset about her baton twirlers’ behavior. They were far too silly, so Marie Paul stopped them and told them they needed to act and perform in the manner she had taught them. As she was speaking to her group, a Chicago policeman asked Marie Paul to have her group step aside so that the parade could continue. Marie Paul was very protective of her students and did not want anyone else correcting them. She said to the policeman, ‘Officer, when these girls do what is expected of them, and then they will continue to march.’ The policeman stood helplessly by as the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade was halted for five minutes, until Marie Paul was satisfied with the girls’ behavior.”

For Sister Diane Mason, who lived with Marie Paul that dedication translated to passion. “She was always running off to teach. She would eat supper with us – then off to school to meet her students … morning, noon or night and even weekends. If anyone saw a glimpse even of her veil flying by we would all say, ‘Hi, Paul’ – and in her running voice – her response would be ‘hi.’ She was usually running to her room to get some piece of music that she forgot. Her passion was unbelievable – for her music and for her students.”

Using the words “teacher of applied music” to describe Marie Paul meant the following: She taught a grade school guitar group, as well as a group of high school, college and beyond, former students who played a Mass every Sunday for liturgy. She taught individual or group lessons in violin, viola and bass and conducted the school orchestra. She gave piano lessons and trained organists for the church. For years, she had a children’s choir for church liturgies. For 29 years, her Baton Corps performed in the St. Patrick’s and Columbus Day parades. Then, there were the annual school recitals in piano and strings, as well as several district, state and national competitions. Gold and silver medal and trophy winners were almost a given when it came to her students. She was always one of the conductors for the All-Star orchestra performance involving schools on the northwest side of Chicago and Oh! For years, she moderated the cheerleading club!

Sister Marie Paul herself had this to say about her busy ministry: “Students are a channel of God’s grace for me. I’m at home with them as much as in the chapel or at prayers. They just affect me that way … (Adding) Also, it is a fitting way to practice patience.”

Many sisters have memories of Marie Paul playing the bass in the Church of the Immaculate Conception, having lugged it from the college to the church for our summer liturgies. Many sister musicians in the group listened for her “beat,” hoping to keep the whole group playing together. Unlike her teaching, Marie Paul did have to give up playing the bass a few summers ago, bequeathing her spot to a replacement she herself chose – Sister Nancy Bartasavich, who unfortunately is off campus on a long-planned visit or would no doubt be playing bass today.

Perhaps the effects of Marie Paul’s talent, dedication, commitment and passion were no more evident than at her Mass of Christian Burial last week at St. Francis Borgia. The following comments were shared by Sisters Dawn and Jeanne, who attended the Mass:

“People arrived before the wake began at 5 p.m., and just kept coming. Current families with children taking music lessons, former students, many of whom are still involved in music or who just retired as music teachers themselves! What I was most taken with was their prayerfulness. Her coffin was located near the altar. They had put a large kneeler near the coffin. People stood in line a little ways back from the coffin as if to give each person or group of persons who went to the coffin some privacy. And people knelt there and prayed quite a long time. In fact, so long, that about 15 minutes before liturgy, they removed the kneeler to move the line along.”

“As it came upon Mass time at 7 p.m., the side door of the church opened and in poured all manner of musicians, some carrying violin cases, others with guitars, probably 75 to 100 men and women, young and old, grade school, high school and college kids. We learned later that many of the adults have careers in music. And before we knew it, the music area was swelling with beautiful strong sounds – those kids were really singing – as if they wanted her to hear them. I was touched by the presence of three ‘older’ gentlemen – three violinists who came to be part of the group. They provided an instrumental as the first communion song. After Mass, I thanked one of them for coming and he said, ‘We loved Marie Paul.’”

“Father Mulcrone started the liturgy by looking out at the packed church and saying, ‘Marie Paul would have loved this.’ In his homily, he referred to Marie Paul not as the music teacher, but as a teacher who taught music, who awakened the gift of music in each of them, who so believed in their gifts and talents that soon they came to believe in themselves.”

Sister Diane Mason, who also attended Marie Paul’s send off in Chicago, imagined what Marie Paul would have said that evening and perhaps today: “My God, why are all of those people here? Diane believes the most Sisters of Providence would say that Marie Paul didn’t seem to have a clue about how her life impacted so many other lives through her love for music, through her love for teaching, through her love for her students and above all, through her love for God.”

In the opening song, which we will be singing soon, the third verse refers to “David standing with harp in hand (in the New Jerusalem), as master of the choice and that 10,000 times would we be blessed. Who might this music hear.” I suspect that is the music Marie Paul now hears … and, who knows, with so many competitions in her teaching career, she just may give David, the master of the choice, a run for his money!

Sister Marie Paul Haas passed away on Saturday, March 30, 2019. She was 91 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 73 years.

Funeral arrangements for Sister Marie Paul took place on Tuesday, April 2, at St. Francis Borgia Church, Chicago, from 5 to 7 p.m. (central time), followed by Mass.

Funeral arrangements for Sister Marie Paul at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods took place on Tuesday, April 9, in the Church of the Immaculate Conception.

A Wake took place at 9 a.m., followed by Mass of Christian Burial at 11 a.m.

We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Marie Paul in the comment section below.

Sister Marie Paul Haas

Teacher for 70 years in schools in Indiana, Illinois, North Carolina and California.

In Indiana: Holy Cross, Indianapolis (1961-63).

In Illinois: St. Mary, Aurora (1953-61); St. Francis Borgia, Chicago (1963-2019).

In North Carolina: St. Patrick, Fayetteville (1949-52).

In California: St. Therese, Alhambra (1948-49).

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3 Comments

  1. Dr. Bob Farnsworth on April 1, 2019 at 10:36 am

    Sister Marie Paul was an amazing person–and a wonderful colleague for many years. Her dedication to teaching, music, and the welfare of her students was a credit to the Sisters of Providence. She could be quite stern–but there was never any doubt that she had a kind heart and wanted the best for everyone. I never met anyone who did not respect Sister for her dedication and professionalism. She set a standard–and kept to it.

    My condolences to her family and to her fellow Sisters. I’ll be praying for her and all of you.

  2. DEBBIE STARK on April 4, 2019 at 5:22 pm

    SENDING PRAYERS TO SISTER FAMILY SHE WAS THE BEST MUSIC TEACHER I HAD HER @ ST. FRANCIS BORGIA. I LEARNED SO MUCH FROM HER ABOUT GOD AND MUSIC . REST IN PEACE SHE IS MAKING BEAUTIFUL MUSIC IN THE HEAVENS I CAN HEAR HER ALWAYS.

  3. Paula Modaff, S.P. on April 13, 2019 at 6:51 pm

    For four years in grammar school, II personally experienced Marie Paul’s serious dedication to music and felt the love she had for her students. She was never sentimental and yet we knew in some way that we were important to her. No rest in peace, for Marie Paul. She constantly is singing the praises of the Holy with the choirs of angels and saints.

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