Sister Adele Beacham (formerly Sister Joseph Therese)
Reading (Micah: 6:8)
(In the book of Micah, the people ask what they can do to please God, what offerings can they bring, what sacrifices can they make? The prophet Micah responds): “O people, the Lord has already told you what is good, and this is what God requires: to do what is just, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”
Sister Adele chose this Scripture for her wake service and she lived it throughout her 97 years of life. As she herself wrote: “I think I have always been interested in service, doing for others … I came from a very prayerful home; we prayed together every evening, so I had a sense of giving, of doing for God,” wrote Sister Ann Casper and delivered by Sister Betty Hopf in the commentary for Sister Adele Beacham, formerly Sister Joseph Therese, who passed away on Monday, August 7, 2023, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. She was 97-years-old and had been a Sister of Providence for 77 years.
Sister Betty continued: The prayerful home into which Flora Adele was born March 9, 1926, was that of Joseph and Vera Brown Beacham, in Toronto, Canada. Her sisters Marilyn and Anita joined the family a few years later, making her the eldest of three children.
Many nieces and nephews, their offspring, remained close during the years and, as you have heard, many are with us this evening. The family is noted for pulling out all the stops and celebrating holidays and Adele’s significant birthdays and jubilees, so it is not surprising that they are here to celebrate her long life.
Adele knew tragedy early, experiencing the sudden and unexpected death of her mother when she was 7-years-old. The father moved the young family to Dayton, Ohio, his birthplace, where they lived in a double, with her aunt and uncle and two young cousins on the other side, who helped to raise them, as her father needed to keep his job with the National Register Company in Toronto. When her father was with them though, he would take the three girls to the department store for clothes and other items needed. Adele spoke of him as “a beautiful man.”
Adele attended grade and high schools in Dayton, with the Sisters of Notre Dame, graduating in 1945. It was not until attending Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) that she came to know the Sisters of Providence. Adele felt fortunate that her father agreed to let her attend SMWC solely for the horseback riding! She soon changed her residence, being received as a postulant of the Sisters of Providence in 1946. She professed first vows on Jan. 23, 1949, and on that same date, her perpetual profession in 1954. Her religious name at that time was Sister Joseph Therese.
Adele eventually received her bachelor’s degree in education from SMWC, and later a Master’s degree in reading from Cardinal Stritch College in Milwaukee. In the 80s, she earned a second Master’s degree in theology from St. Meinrad’s.
Her education ministries of nearly 30 years, included elementary teacher, principal and school supervisor for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. She then served in parish ministry as pastoral associate and religious educator for some 19 years. All her ministries were in Indiana and Illinois. Sister Betty Hopf recalled in her second year of teaching being sent to Fort Wayne where Adele was principal. It seemed that she was regularly sent several young Sisters so she could mentor them. There were five of us with less than five years of teaching experience and Adele was the best principal ever, plus we had a fun time all together – lots of joy and laughter and affirmation.
She came to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1998 at age 70 and continued as volunteer in Liturgy and Wellness ministries and as Minister of Care. Her justice outreach ministries included Providence Food Pantry, a member of a local Pax Christi group and ministry to women at the state prison in Rockville, where she visited for 18 years, long enough to see two of the women she visited finally released. She also served for years as tutor in English pronunciation for Dominican Sisters from Vietnam studying at SMWC. Only declining health caused her to end these ministries of service in 2020. In later years, her ministry card assigned her to pray for vocations and to bring joy to others.
It is well known that Adele was one of three Sisters of Providence arrested, handcuffed and shackled in 2002 for peacefully protesting the operation of the School of the Americas. Even a U.S. Marshal who helped shackle the barely 5-foot-tall Adele admitted that, “This is an embarrassment.” Once the three sisters were on probation back home, Adele’s officer happened to have been taught by the Sisters of Providence at the Village school – no doubt another potential embarrassment!
Family members all spoke lovingly of Adele and especially of their get-togethers at their homes or at the Woods, where her impish grin and mischievous nature were the highlight of every family gathering. Nephew Kevin, speaking for several family members, stated that Adele “always made us feel that we were the most important people in the world, with her big smile and good humor. She was a source of strength for our family each moment that we needed support and prayer. Adele took great pride in showing us around – walking the campus, visiting the Saint Mother Theodore Shrine and the alpacas and interacting with all Adele’s friends. We also recall going to Casey, Illinois, to see the “Big Stuff” as we all call it. Phone conversations always ended with her saying ‘Peace Joy and Love to you and your family,’ which always meant a lot to us.”
Adele’s niece Kris especially remembered Adele’s “deep hugs.” Also, she remembers her being very sneaky and ornery at their house at Thanksgiving. The game we played was “HIDE THE DRESSING.” Adele always found it. As an adult, Kris “loved her wisdom and character and the fact that she could fall asleep in a minute flat. One minute she’s talking; the next she’s asleep!”
Her niece Ayne remembers Adele’s wonderful way of listening intensely to conversations and also to her individually. She remembers the way Adele would be able to evaluate a situation from an angle she hadn’t thought of and have wisdom about that which Ayne needed to hear.
Sister Adele’s great-niece Kallie spoke of Adele “making our wedding so special; from working with our singer to put her to ease singing at her first Catholic wedding, to giving the most beautiful blessing at our reception, and dancing the night away. She brought her own special light to the whole event.”
Her niece Judy shared that “Many an Easter (beginning in childhood) I would be washing silverware and Adele would be drying. She would grin as she walked behind me to pretend to be putting the dry silverware away only to place them back in the dirty pile. It would be many rounds of washing the same silverware with comments such as ‘will this ever end?’ before her giggles would give her away and I would finally catch on! Dish washing will never be the same as memories of Adele will always be with me.”
And we will give to Judy the final words of this commentary: “What a celebration in heaven for our beloved Aunt Adele. She was an inspiration to multitudes and it was a true joy to be in her presence throughout my life! Her strength, independence and steadfast convictions served as an inspiration to all of the women in our family. She was small but might.”
May we all strive to emulate Adele’s life of service to others with a smile, and with peace, love and JOY.
Funeral services for Sister Adele took place on Thursday, August 17, and Friday, August 18, in the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
A Wake took place from 2:30-4:30 p.m., on Thursday, August 17. Mass of Christian Burial was at 11 a.m., on Friday, August 18.
Memorial contributions may be made in honor of Sister Adele to the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Adele in the comment section below.
Sister Adele Beacham (formerly Sister Joseph Therese)
In Indiana: Teacher, St. Anthony School, Indianapolis (1949-50); Teacher, St. John the Baptist, Fort Wayne (1961-64); Principal, St. John the Baptist, Fort Wayne (1964-69); School Supervisor, Archdiocese of Indianapolis (1969-72); Principal, Holy Cross Central, Indianapolis (1972-79); Religion Educator/Parish Minister, St. Anne/St. Elizabeth, New Castle (1979-80); Pastoral Associate, St. Martin de Porres Parish, Syracuse (1982-87); Director of Development, Sisters of Providence, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (1987-90); Director of Religious Education, Sacred Heart Parish, .Terre Haute (1993-98); Volunteer, Liturgy and Sisters of Providence Ministries, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (1998-2001); Wellness Ministry Staff and Sisters of Providence Ministries, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2001-02); Ministry of Care Volunteer, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2002-06); Providence Food Pantry/Ministry of Care/Women’s Prison, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2006-14); Providence Food Pantry, West Terre Haute (2014-17); Ministry of Care/Activity Room, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2014-17); tutor in English pronunciation, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2015-17); tutor in English pronunciation, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2018-2020); Movie Reviewer, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2018-2020); Prayer, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2020-2023).
In Illinois: Teacher, St. Andrew, Chicago (1950-53); Teacher, St. Sylvester, Chicago (1954-60).
Donate in her honor
Has this sister made a difference in your life? Help continue the mission.
At this time, our site contains all Sisters of Providence obituaries beginning in 2009.
Looking for a sister?
Find her here! Photos, articles, obituaries of sisters you have known and loved.