Sister Adrian Marie Conrad
As today we gather to celebrate Sister Adrian Marie’s entrance into the fullness of God’s reign, we begin by recalling the many ways through which she gave so many a taste of the kingdom of God here on this earth, said Sister Maureen Abbott in her commentary for Sister Adrian Marie Conrad, who passed away on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. She was 99 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 76 years.
Sister Maureen continued: Sister Adrian Marie was born Mary Elizabeth Conrad on Feb. 6, 1920, in Bicknell, Ind., to Peb Conrad and Elizabeth Dueppe Conrad. She was their fifth child, joining Paul, Gabriella (Gabe), Frank, and Fletcher, later becoming “big sister” to her two younger brothers, Adrian and Charles. When the family moved to Vincennes, the children attended St. Francis Xavier School and the girls attended St. Rose Academy. After her 1938 graduation, Mary went on to study at Indiana Business College in Vincennes. With war on the horizon, Adrian and Charles enlisted while she contributed to the war effort by entering the work force.
On July 22, 1943, she entered the Congregation. It was a small band of only five until January when Sisters Michaela Galvin and Catherine Denise Duplace arrived from the eastern postulancy to join them.
After professing first vows on Jan. 23, 1946, she moved across the state to Richmond and began her teaching ministry in the middle grades at St. Mary’s. After professing final vows on Jan. 23, 1951, she taught seventh grade at St. John the Baptist in Fort Wayne, and two years later became eighth grade teacher at St. Joseph in Downers Grove, Ill. Since her brother Adrian had settled in Chicago, they were both delighted when he was able to introduce his children, John and Jan, to “Aunt Sister Mary” in the convent parlor, as visiting went in those days.
Adrian Marie’s obvious capabilities were recognized when after four years, she was appointed principal of the school and superior of the house, meanwhile continuing her previous duties as eighth grade teacher. Apparently, she was able to handle these extra responsibilities well, because music teacher, Sister Lucy Nolan, remembers her as not only fair, but funny. After 10 years in Downers Grove, she welcomed her next assignment, to her home parish in Vincennes, as an opportunity to reconnect with her aging parents and the large contingent of siblings who had settled in Hoosier land.
In 1965, she received an especially challenging assignment: Not only was she eighth grade teacher and principal at St. Jude in Indianapolis, but she was superior of a house of 18 sisters, most of whom taught at Chartrand High School, located on the same property. Six were still in their 20s, just starting out and full of mischief and practical jokes. And this was the 60s! Several sisters who were there at the time regaled me with tales of the good times they had even as they learned to drive, set aside their habits, and studied for master’s degrees during the summers. Sister Mary Jo Piccione was a student at St. Jude and Chartrand during these years and fondly remembers the special Mass that Adrian Marie and the sisters arranged in the convent chapel to see her off when she entered in 1966.
It can’t be overlooked that increased availability of TV at that time was the perfect way for Adrian Marie to indulge her passion for sports. Since her brother Frank had played basketball at Notre Dame and had gone on to coach high school sports, she became the resident expert as other sister fans followed their favorite teams.
After earning her master’s degree in education from Indiana State University in 1969, Adrian was assigned to high school teaching, first at Chartrand and then at Rivet in Vincennes before taking up duties as Campus Director at Ladywood-St. Agnes High School in Indianapolis for a year. Then, after four years at Sacred Heart in Terre Haute, she served as Administrative Secretary during the first years of Cathedral High School’s operations.
In 1978, Adrian moved to California to take up duties as Director of Maintenance at Marywood, Orange. However, the year had barely begun when the announcement was made that this would be the last year of a full four-year high school. For Adrian, this was a moment to consider new possibilities. When a listing for the position of Director for a group home for teenage girls under court supervision in Henderson, Nev., came to her attention, she persuaded Sister Thomas Jeanne to consider taking on this challenge as a team. In this entirely new ministry, they were able to collaborate with specialized staff as they aimed to help the girls gain the skills and confidence they needed to return to a family setting rather than face incarceration.
Their parish at this time was Guardian Angel Church in Las Vegas, known as “the cathedral on the strip.” The pastor noticed how easily they were able to relate to members of the extremely diverse congregation and invited them to join the pastoral team, with Adrian Marie taking charge of the gift shop. Sister Thomas Jeanne recalls that parishioners ranged from the cocktail waitress who came to daily Mass to a shabby old man who liked to talk. She added that this gentleman turned out to be a very rich old man who became such a staunch friend that he insisted on arranging for them a tour of any three European countries they chose. These turned out to be Ireland, France, and Germany, with a memorable stop at Dachau.
It seems that no one place had a permanent attraction for Adrian Marie. The term “mobile ministerial lifestyle” was not yet in common use, but it seems she was creating it as she went along. Sister Josephine Bryan describes her attitude with a sports analogy: “Like golf, ‘fore’ meant get out of the way; direct concentration, aim, and swing for a hole-in-one. She knew how to direct love for growth and hope. Her life was directed by being Providence to others.”
All along the way she kept up contact not only with former students and colleagues, but especially with her now widely scattered family. She made it a point to arrange vacations so as to visit family members in various locations. Her nephew John says the family adopted Sister Thomas Jeanne and regarded these visits as a family hub, prompting cross-country conversations to let everyone in on the latest hilarious and fun times.
Her next stop was in Sacramento, where she first served as executive secretary for Grace Day Home. She enjoyed working with little kids after years with teens and adults, but after two years, moved on to the post of editorial assistant at the diocesan newspaper, the Catholic Herald. These were the pre-LGU days when the sisters scattered across northern California would gather periodically as a mission group. The low hotel prices of Reno were a great draw, and the group did not scorn the nearby casinos. Sister Jeremy recalls being impressed to note that, unlike others clustered around the poker slot machines, Adrian Marie’s stack of quarters went up, not down.
Adrian consistently kept in touch with her SP friends and could be counted on to supply the latest SP news at province gatherings and later with her LGU. They also appreciated her ability to boil down their wide-ranging reflections into a concise statement for their report.
Reaching retirement age didn’t slow her down, so when they moved to Bakersfield, she volunteered her services at the San Clemente Mission parish. Later, when they moved to Los Angeles, she volunteered at St. John Medical Center. Despite a cancer diagnosis and treatment, the southern California years were a time of forging strong friendships. Once again, their parish activities introduced them to a wide circle of friends who were involved in civic causes and the entertainment industry. A neighbor commented that, “We became fast friends over our shared love of L.A. Lakers basketball and shared countless laughs and wide-ranging conversations.
Her grand-niece Nicole, who lives nearby, relates, “Aunt Mary’s youthful fun was infectious. That’s why she attracted so many people. She could talk about anything, and had a knack for finding common ground with anyone. People were shocked that Aunt Mary and Jeanne were not the stereotypical nuns like in the movies and on TV. They were hilarious, cool, social and the best storytellers ever!”
Sister Mary Jo Piccione also commented, “I think just about everyone in Hollywood knew the SP’s due to Sister Adrian Marie and Sister Thomas Jeanne.”
Sister Mary Jo also recalled the care and support Sister Adrian Marie had offered her over many years, expressing her gratitude in this heartfelt tribute: “I want to grow up in community and be like you – a good and faith-filled servant and friend. God bless you, my friend! Thanks for your example of loving your Lord with all your heart and soul and being a faithful friend and mentor. You were a true Sister of Providence.”
Services for Sister Adrian Marie took place on Wednesday, Nov. 6, and Thursday, Nov. 7, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Adrian Marie in the comment section below.
Memorial contributions in Sister Adrian Marie’s honor may be made to the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
Sister Adrian Marie Conrad
In Indiana: Teacher, St. Mary, Richmond (1946-50); Teacher, St. John the Baptist, Fort Wayne (1951-53); Teacher, St. Francis Xavier, Vincennes (1963-65); Superior Principal, St. Jude, Indianapolis (1965-68); Teacher, Chartrand High School, Indianapolis (1968-70); Teacher, Vincennes Rivet High School (1970-71); Campus Director, Ladywood-St. Agnes, Indianapolis (1971-72); Teacher, Sacred Heart, Terre Haute (1971-76); Administrative Secretary, Cathedral High School (1976-78); Prayer, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2019).
In Illinois: Teacher/Principal, St. Joseph, Downers Grove (1953-63).
In California: Director of Maintenance, Marywood, Orange (1978-79); Executive Secretary, Grace Day Home, Sacramento (1987-89); Editorial Assistant, Catholic Herald, Sacramento (1989-92); Volunteer, San Clemente Mission, Bakersfield (1992-97); Outreach Ministry, Providence St. John Health Center, Santa Monica (1998-2015); Residential Services, Los Angeles (2015-19).
In Nevada: Director, Regina Hall Home for Juvenile Girls, Nevada Catholic Welfare Bureau, Henderson (1979-83); Pastoral Associate, Guardian Angel Catholic, Las Vegas (1983-87).
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