The musings of Sean Paul Murphy: Editor, Producer, Screenwriter, Author. Or, Hollywood -- and beyond -- as seen from an odd little corner of northeast Baltimore, Maryland.
Sean Paul Murphy, Writer
Sean Paul Murphy, Storyteller
Tuesday, May 23, 2023
My Family: My Three Nuns
If you went to Catholic school like me, the very word itself can still inspire fear.
It was understood that men and women who entered the holy orders stepped into a life of service to both God and their fellow man. But let's be honest here. Priests might have been lived lives of service, but they were amply served as well. They were always respected authority figures in their communities. They reigned over their congregations, yet they mixed easily with them. You could find your parish priest anywhere: In a store, a restaurant, a ballgame, the movies or even a bar. The sheer scope of the sex abuse scandal attests to both their access and unquestioned authority. They were not held to the same rules as normal men.
Nuns didn't have it as easy. From my observations, they were the ones who lived a true life of service in schools, hospitals and convents without all the fringe benefits priests enjoyed. They even served the priests! Even as a youth, I felt nuns sacrificed more than priests. Therefore, I want to take the time to honor three women in my family who made the sacrifice to become nuns.
The first nun in my family was my 2nd great-grandaunt Sister M. Daria Rosenberger, of the order of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. She was born Barbara Rosenberger in Krombach, Bavaria, on 15 June 1876. She was the second child of John Rosenberger and Maria Anna Fleckenstein. She arrived in the United States with her family on 21 October 1880. She made her first profession at the Motherhouse in Baltimore, 901 Asquith Street, on 16 July 1904. She was twenty-eight years old.
I really don't know very much about Sister Daria. The only reference to her in the newspapers comes from Baltimore's Der Deutsche Correspondent, 01 Sept 1900. My German is rusty, but it seems to indicate that she was among forty-one graduates of Notre Dame.
My grandmother Rita said that Sister Daria, who was her aunt, was sickly and suffered from epilepsy. At one point Daria's mother Maria was permitted to take her back to Germany for a family visit because everyone thought the sea voyage would do her good. I also heard in the end Sister Daria wanted to leave the order, but her mother wouldn't permit it.
Sister Daria died at the Motherhouse infirmary in Baltimore on 15 March 1919. She is buried in Villa Maria Cemetery.
The next two sisters in my family were literally sisters. They were Tina and Maria Jindra. They were both my 2nd cousins, three times removed, and, like Sister M. Daria, they both became School Sisters of Notre Dame.
Sister Mary Michele made her first profession at the Motherhouse on 22 July 1914, an event which was duly reported in Der Deutsche Correspondent, the following day on 23 July 1914.
Sister Mary Michele taught at St. Wenceslaus, Sacred Heart, Corpus Christi, and St. Mark's Elementary Schools. One of her students at St. Wenceslaus was my mother, her cousin, Clara Protani Murphy. She considered Sister Michele one of her favorite teachers without even realizing she was her cousin at the time.
My mother at St. Wenceslaus 1st row, 4th from the right
I can give you a taste of Sister Mary Michele's personality since I came across a card she sent my grandmother Rita and her siblings when they were young. Here it is:
The Christmas card didn't have a stamp so it must have been hand delivered to grandmother Rita and her siblings Norbert, Helen and Anthony. Here's the text: "Dear little Cousins, I wish you a very happy New Year. I will ask Jesus to bless you all the time. How are you all? I guess you are glad to go back to school again. Was Santa good? May Jesus bless you. Your Cousin, Sr. M. Michele"
Here is a longer card written to my great-grandparents George and Maria Anna Kostohryz Rosenberger. Mary Rosenberger was her 2nd cousin.
Here's the text: "Dear Cousins, First of all I wish you the joys and blessings of this Happy Eastertide. May the dear Risen Lord ever be your Helper in times of trial. How are you George & Mary? No doubt your hands are full. Cecilia wrote to me about little Helen. Poor child. I pity her. I will pray very hard for her. You have had one thing after another. The dear Lord loves you. He will always help you to bear it. I received the gift you sent. It surely did please me, cousins. May God bless and reward you. I guess you received my sister's letter by this time. I paid her a visit on Wednesday. We enjoyed our day. It was too short. I expect to see her this summer again. Work here is very scarce. Have you a job George? We are enjoying our holidays. School reopens on the fourth. I am still busy writing letters. Your Norbert will soon graduate. Can you believe it? Didn't those years pass by quickly? God bless him and keep him good always. Now I will close with much love and a hearty God bless you all and console you. I am your loving cousin, Sr. M. Michele"
I'm glad my family saved those notes. They really give you a glimpse into her heart. She seemed to be a kind, thoughtful woman of faith.
Sister M. Michele died on 3 April 1968. Her death certificate, Baltimore City 68 3806, reports her cause of death as a cerebral hemorrhage which she had experienced for about four hours. It also reports that the previous day, she experienced an acute myocardial infarction. Her occupation was listed as teacher. She was buried in Villa Maria Cemetery like Sister M. Daria.
Obituary from The Morning Sun:
SISTER MICHELE RITES TOMORROW
Notre Dame Nun Had Spend Over 50 Years Teaching
A requiem mass for Sister Mary Michele Jindra, S.S.N.D., who spent more than 50 years teaching in the schools of the Baltimore Archdiocese, will be offered at 9 A.M. tomorrow at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church.
Sister Michele, who was 74, died Wednesday at Mercy Hospital.
Born in Baltimore, she spent most of her religious life teaching in schools of the archdiocese, mainly in the primary grades.
She is one of the golden jubilarian sisters who taught at St. Ann's School when Cardinal Sheehan was a pupil there.
She is survived by two sisters, Sister Mary Illona, S.S.N.D., and Miss Helen Jindra, both of Baltimore.
The final nun in my family was Sr. M. Michele's sister Mary Agnes Jindra.
Mary Ilona was baptized at St. Wenceslaus Church on January 29, 1899. Her sponsors were her aunt and uncle Jacob and Antonia Bores Rynes. She made her first profession at the Motherhouse in Baltimore, Maryland on 22 July 1920, six years after her sister. She taught at St. Wenceslaus, Sacred Heart, Corpus Christi and St. Mark's Elementary Schools.
Fortunately, I have some notes from her as well to give us a taste of her personality. I suppose this first letter was the one Sr. M. Michele referred to in her letter. It was sent from the Convent of Notre Dame, 406 W. 127th St., N.Y.C.
Here's the text: "Dear cousins, How is everybody? I hope well and happy. A happy New Year to all! My prayer was that the Lord would bless you, dear cousins, and grant you your hearts' desires. Was Santa good to the kiddies? Perhaps a little poorer than usual. Well, it is not the material things which make one happy, is it? Jesus is the only one in this world. Trust in Him and He will help you. May God bless you for all! From your loving cousin, M. Ilona" (I suspect these letters were written during The Great Depression. My great-grandfather George was out of work for an extended period and the family survived on charity from the church.)
Here's another letter from Sr. M. Ilona. This one was addressed to my granduncle Anthony Rosenberger on the occasion of his First Communion. Since people usually have their First Communion around the age of eight, I assume this card was written in 1932.
Here's the text: "Dear Anthony, I hear you are about to make your First Holy Communion. What a privileged little fellow you are. You know dear child, it will be the happiest day of your life so make good use of the time preparing for it. Don't forget to pray for everyone you know. I want a lot of things so don't forget me. You know whatever you ask for on that day you will receive. May God bless you dear child. From your loving cousin, Sr. Ilona"
Here's Anthony's First Communion photo. (I don't know if he got everything he asked for that day.)
Anthony "Buzzy" Rosenberger
Here's another postcard from Sr. Ilona. It was addressed to Mary Rosenberger.
Here's the text: "Dear Cousins, Hello! How are you? Did you have a nice Easter? I hope so. I hope the dear Lord will give you many more graces of this Blessed Season. God Bless you all! Your loving cousin, Sr Ilona"
Sister M. Ilona Jindra died on 5 April 1969. She joined her sister in Villa Maria Cemetery.
The Jindra nuns had two additional sisters. One sister, Anna A. Jindra, died in 1919 at the tragically young age of nineteen. The other sister, Helen Jindra, died in 1989 at the age of eighty-three. Helen never married, and when she died that branch of the family became extinct. Sr. M. Daria's surviving siblings had many descendants, including me.
I'm happy I had the opportunity to share them, and their sacrifice, with you.
Be sure to check out my novel Chapel Street. It tells the story of a young man straddling the line between sanity and madness while battling a demonic entity that has driven his family members to suicide for generations. It was inspired by an actual haunting my family experienced.
You can buy the Kindle and paperback at Amazon and the Nook, paperback and hardcover at Barnes & Noble.
Thank you for sharing the story of your family’s dedicated Sisters. I bristle when people make nasty nun jokes. These blessed women sacrificed so much to serve the Church and its people. God bless the SSNDs.ReplyDelete
Thank you! I was happy to honor them.Delete