Sister Miriam Clare Stoll
A reading from Saint Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians: “We always mention you in our prayers and thank God for you, and I constantly remember before God our Creator how you have shown your faith in action, worked for love, and persevered through hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ. We know that God loves you and that you have been chosen, because when we brought the Good News to you, it came to you not only as words, but as power and as the Holy Spirit. And you observed the sort of life we lived when we were with you, which was for your instruction, and you were led to become an imitator of the Lord, and it was with the joy of the Holy Spirit that you took to the gospel.”
Margaret Mary was born on Dec. 7, 1924, to John Stoll and Agnes Coppersmith in Clyde, Mo. She attended Saint Mary Elementary School and Immaculate Conception High School in Conception, Mo., graduating in 1943. Sister Miriam Clare was one of 15 children. We extend our sympathy to Eugene, Martha Ann, Amelia, Donald, Edward and Gerald, as we imagine the great reunion happening in heaven as she joined her parents and her brothers and sisters who predeceased her: Vincent, Lawrence, Alfred, Leo, Lucille and Alice. On Aug. 12, 1944, Margaret Mary entered the Novitiate. She received the name Sister Miriam Clare, received the habit on Jan. 23, 1945, and professed first and perpetual vows on the same date in 1947 and 1952, respectively, said Sister Mary Ann Phelan in her commentary for Sister Miriam Clare Stoll, who passed away on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. She was 95 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 75 years.
Sister Mary Ann continued: Sister Miriam Clare received her bachelor’s degree in education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, and state certification in elementary education.
Sister Miriam Clare began her active ministry in 1947, serving in Indiana, Illinois and Missouri, as a teacher of primary grades, teaching for 24 years. Most of these years were spent in first grade. After that, she went on to parish work, religious education, and serving those who needed physical and spiritual care of any kind. The ministry which I think was nearest and dearest to her heart was the founding and directing of a house of prayer and hermitages in Pevely, Mo. Some of the materials she gave to me contained letters of thank you and admiration of those with whom she served during this time. In September of 1994, Sister Miriam Clare returned to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, where she continued to serve as driver and seamstress until 2009 when her full-time ministry became prayer.
Learning about a person is always important, but I always think knowing a person is more important. I never knew Sister Miriam Clare until I started working here at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 2003. One of the first things I learned about her was her prayerfulness and her great devotion to Mother Theodore. She always said when she did not die of cancer many years ago, that was because of her prayer to Mother Theodore. When the time for the canonization was announced, Miriam came to me and told me that she wanted to go to Rome. She was so excited about the thought of being at the canonization. When she was about to go for a passport, she came to me and said: “I just found out how much a passport costs and said to myself, ‘just think how many more Mother Theodore biographies I could send for so much less, so I will stay here and express my love and devotion in that way.”’ For a long time, before that day, Sister Miriam Clare had made it a practice to come to my office every month to purchase a copy of the book, A Woman for our Time, so she could send it to a friend or family member and help spread devotion to Mother Theodore.
One of the things in the folder Miriam gave to me is an account of how she came to become a Sister of Providence. I want to share it because it is such a good insight into the young person she was.
Sometime after Margaret Mary graduated from high school, the principal from the parish school called on Margaret Mary to help with the class of a teacher who was out sick. After the teacher came back, the principal asked Margaret Mary if she had ever thought that she might become a sister. She replied, “Not since I was a little girl.” The principal then told her, “I think you should; go home and tell your mother.” After a couple of days, she told her mother, who agreed. Margaret Mary had four aunts who were Sisters of Providence so she wrote to them. (The sisters, as most of us know, were the Coppersmiths: Sisters Scholastica, Mary Xavier, Mary Albertine and Mary Anselm). They replied that she should wait for the next group. So, Margaret Mary told her mother, “I don’t care where I go, so I will go to the sisters who taught me, the Precious Blood Sisters.” So she wrote to her aunts and told them. About two weeks later, Mother Mary Bernard called her and said, “Don’t wait, but come immediately.” Then, she thought, where should I go? The Precious Blood Sisters have a beautiful ring. The Sisters of Providence have a long rosary. Do I want a ring or a rosary? She couldn’t decide, so her mother said, “I’ll give you some money and you can go to the Abbey and ask the priest to say a Mass so you know where you should go.” Before the afternoon was over, she knew she should to go the Sisters of Providence. Mother Mary Bernard had said “come immediately.” Margaret Mary always obeyed, so she started preparing. The next week, she left home for Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. The postulants had arrived three weeks earlier, but welcomed her as their new band member willingly. Margaret Mary sounds like the Thessalonians in the scripture once they knew what God had in store for them, they did it, and so did she.
Sister Miriam Clare had many talents, one of which was sewing. In the 1960s, when we were looking at religious garb for the future, the sisters were asked to design and make a suggested habit, so Sister Miriam Clare did make one of the suggested ones.
A last thing that I would like to share with you is Margaret Mary’s devotion to her patron saint. As a child, she read the Sacred Heart magazine that came to their home and cut out the pictures of St. Margaret Mary and the Sacred Heart and made her own booklet which she called “The Life of Saint Margaret Mary and the Sacred Heart.” Later in life, she said “I still have a special place in my heart for St. Margaret Mary and the Sacred Heart.”
Thank you, Sister Miriam Clare, for choosing to come to the Sisters of Providence. We thank you for your example of caring for others.
Services for Sister Miriam Clare took place on Monday, Feb. 3, and Tuesday, Feb. 4, at the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
A Wake took place from 2:30-4:30 p.m., on Monday, Feb. 3, with Vespers at 4:30 p.m.
Mass of Christian Burial took place at 11 a.m., on Tuesday, Feb. 4.
We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Miriam Clare in the comment section below.
Sister Miriam Clare Stoll
In Indiana: Teacher, Holy Spirit, Indianapolis (1954-62); Teacher, St. Philip Neri, Indianapolis (1966-71); Charge of Home and Activities, St. Elizabeth Home, Indianapolis (1971); Parish Work, St. Matthew Parish, Indianapolis (1971-72); Hospital Visiting, St. Vincent Hospital, Indianapolis (1972-74); Ministry to Aging Shut-Ins and Sick, St. Patrick Parish, Terre Haute (1986-94); Driver/Community Service, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (1994-2004); Sewing Room/Prayer, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2004-09); Prayer, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2009-2020).
In Illinois: Teacher, St. Mel-Holy Ghost, Chicago (1952-54); Teacher, Our Lady of Mercy, Chicago (1964-65); Teacher, St. Agnes, Chicago (1965-66).
In Oklahoma: Teacher, Corpus Christi, Oklahoma City (1962-64).
In Missouri: Religious Education, St. Michael, St. Louis (1974-76); Adult Education, St. Mark School, St. Louis (1976-77); Foundress and Director of House of Prayer and Hermitage, Christina House, Pevely (1977-83); Care for Elderly, St. Louis (1984-85); Shelter Manager, Hotel Missouri, Springfield (1985-86).
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