Sister Marie Alexis Geiger
A reading from Paul’s letter to the Galatians 5:22-23.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law … Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
The word of God.
Sister Marie Alexis Geiger was indeed someone who kept in step with the Spirit. She was the embodiment of joy, generosity, kindness, goodness and faithfulness. As a good friend said of her, her heart was greater than she was, said Sister Janet Gilligan and Sister Mary Mark Dede in their commentary for Sister Marie Alexis Geiger, who passed away on Monday, Oct. 14, 2019, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. She was 91 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 73 years.
Sister Janet and Sister Mary Mark continued: Elizabeth Clarissa Geiger was born on June 22, 1928, to Mary Elizabeth Drew and William Geiger in Loogootee, Indiana. She had two sisters, Margaret and Gertrude, and three brothers, Gilbert, James and Robert. She loved her family, her brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, and their children, who remember her as “so much fun.”
Her brother Robert died while he was in first grade, and her mother took Betty to St. Patrick School to tell his teachers. Sister Joseph Henry looked at Betty and said, “Why isn’t she in school?” Her mother explained that she was only 5 years old. “That’s all right,” Sister Joseph Henry said, “she can take her brother’s place.” So from that day on, Betty attended St. Patrick’s School in Indianapolis and went on to high school at St. John’s Academy.
During her high school years, she loved joining her friends with great enthusiasm in such activities as a night time trip to a cemetery. She graduated in 1945. Then, inspired by the sisters’ care, concern, and devotion to prayer, she entered the Sisters of Providence on Feb. 2, 1946, along with five of her friends from St. John’s. She loved to tell how, when this small band of would-be religious crossed the bridge to Providence Convent, they stopped and threw the money in their purses into the ravine, saying they wouldn’t need it any more.
Betty was given the name Sister Marie Alexis. She professed first vows on Aug. 15, 1946, and her final vows on Aug. 15, 1953. She graduated from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in 1962 with a bachelor’s degree in education and earned a master’s degree in education from Marquette University in 1967.
Sister Marie Alexis taught grades two through eight in schools in Indiana, Illinois and Washington, D.C. IN addition to being an excellent teacher, she was a talented baton twirler. So at St. Francis Borgia in Chicago, she taught baton and paraded with Sister Carol Nolan and her students on State Street on Christmas Day, St. Patrick’s Day and Columbus Day. Her mother baked wonderful Swiss cookies for the sisters, and Marie Alexis herself was a good cook and avid knitter.
After teaching for 20 years, Sister Marie Alexis served as principal in Indianapolis for more than 30 years. She held several offices in the Principals’ Association, and at the request of Father Joseph Schaedel, established a Junior High School at Cardinal Ritter High School. In 1999, she returned to Terre Haute, where she was the director of Providence Educational Family Services for eight years. She volunteered at the Providence Food Pantry until 2012. Then, because of her failing health, she moved into Lourdes, but continued to support the pantry with her prayers and to enjoy playing cards and visiting with her friends.
So often when our older sisters die, we remember them as they are as they near the end of their lives. However, those of us who have known them for many years remember them as they were. Marie Alexis was a talented, dynamic person and a faithful, devoted Sister of Providence. Those who knew her describe her as fun-loving, a good and faithful friend. With one of her life-long friends, Sister Barbara Ann Zeller, she attended the Indianapolis 500 ever year. She was unfailingly kind and generous. You had to be careful about what you mentioned you needed or wanted, because she would see that you got your request.
Generosity bubbled out of her. At the same time, she was a person who spoke with authority, was always straightforward, open and honest. You knew what she thought. She was an excellent teacher and administrator, respected by her faculty and her students.
A former student wrote: “As a former student and absolute knucklehead, Sister Marie was one of the few teachers who never gave up on me, and one of the few people in this world that as I grew up, I didn’t want to disappoint. She was an amazing human being and I wish I was able to see her one more time. Rest in heaven, Sister Marie … you made a MASSIVE impact in my life.”
Because Sister Marie Alexis was my band member, her death has brought back many memories of our early days together. When we entered the novitiate in 1946, we were a band of 28 – now we are a band of four. When our band entered, we seemed to enter in clusters. We had one sister from California, but also five from the East, six or seven from the Chicago area, and five from Saint John in Indianapolis, Sister Marie Alexis’ alma mater, and eight from the Juniorate. You would think that would put us into cliques but instead, from the very beginning, we clicked as a group, united but not always docile.
Our novitiate was strict, but our fun-loving solidarity got us through, and believe me, Sister Marie Alexis was a big asset in that department. Even when we were supposed to be planning something serious at a band meeting, we’d get a knock on the door to “curtail our talking and laughing.” Of course we were always supposed to walk with decorum, but not Alexis. This was her walk … We called her “pistol packing Mama.”
And yet from our band we had a Reverend Mother, Council members, Provincials, and principals, including Sister Marie Alexis, who was a dynamic principal. When I heard Alexis died on Tuesday morning, one of my first thoughts was that her dear friend Sister Barbara Ann Zeller had sent for her to help organize heaven while another one of our band, Sister Marie Brendan, serenaded them with “Bless this House.”
I also want to let Sister Marilyn Trobough know that we remember her in prayer as she mourns the loss of her friend of many, many years. As I spend more time in Providence and Health Care and see the frailty of our sisters, I thank God for the wonderful work they have done and know that God loves them as they are as well as for what they were.
Marie Alexis was a wonderful, faithful friend to many. We thank her for her almost 74 years of service as a Sister of Providence. May she rest now in God’s peace.
Funeral arrangements for Sister Marie Alexis took place on Thursday, Oct. 17, and Friday, Oct. 18, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
A Wake took place from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., at the Church of the Immaculate Conception on Thursday, Oct. 17, with Vespers at 4:30 p.m.
Mass of Christian Burial took place at 11 a.m., on Friday, Oct. 18, at the Church of the Immaculate Conception.
We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Marie Alexis in the comment section below.
Sister Marie Alexis Geiger
In Washington, D.C.: Teacher, St. Ann (1948-50).
In Indiana: Teacher, St. John, Vincennes (1950-53); Teacher, Sacred Heart, Terre Haute (1953-54); Teacher, St. Ann, New Castle (1954-56); Teacher/Principal, Precious Blood, Jasper (1963-69); Teacher, St. Simon, Indianapolis (1969-70); Principal, Immaculate Heart, Indianapolis (1970-76); Principal, St. Simon, Indianapolis (1976-81); Principal, Holy Spirit, Indianapolis (1981-89); Teacher/Dean of Junior High Discipline, Ritter Jr.-Sr. High School, Indianapolis (1989-91); Junior High Coordinator/Teacher, Ritter Jr.-Sr. High School, Indianapolis (1991-98); Coordinator, Educational Family Services, Providence Self Sufficiency Ministries, West Terre Haute (1999-2007); Volunteer, Providence Food Pantry, Providence Center, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and West Terre Haute (2007-11); Volunteer, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2011-12); Prayer, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2012-2019).
In Illinois: Teacher, St. Francis Borgia, Chicago (1956-63).
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