For someone who lives in almost total darkness because of macular degeneration, Sister Carmelyn is a light and a joy to whomever she meets.
In her early days in religious life, she reached out to her fellow sisters and workers at Madonna High School. Sister helped out when a homemaker was sick. She helped with stage work for the school plays and refinished every student’s desk. (Later, at Alverno College, Sister taught the maintenance men how to refinish furniture.) “It was a lot of work at Madonna, but we were happy,” she said. She also made rosaries for all the graduates, for weddings, and for her family.
Sister Carmelyn was attracted to the School Sisters of St. Francis because her aunt, Sister Maurina Matt, was a nurse at Maryhill Hospital. She was fascinated with her aunt whenever she came home for a visit. Sister did not want to become nurse, though, when she entered the community after completely high school and working at Woolworth’s for a year. She liked dealing with people and she was being trained to be a department manager. However, our community popped into her head when she wanted to do something better than work in a drug store.
Sister Carmelyn feels her life has been very enriching, especially her 50 years at Alverno College as an assistant to the director of residence for the students, a driver (especially for the sisters coming to summer school), and later as a director of purchasing.
She welcomed changes to religious life like being able to live in apartments, go home to visit our family more often, and travel. Sister Carmelyn loves traveling and visited Ireland, many national parks, and she went on three cruises. Her trip to Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré in Quebec, Canada, was especially enjoyable because of her French heritage. These are among her happy memories, along with being able to go off campus at Alverno in the days of borrowing a car. A family in Aurora, her first mission at Madonna, was very generous. The husband bought a car for his wife so she could drive the sisters for grocery shopping.
She has very few memories that she wants to forget, except the one about staying up until 1:00 in the morning on the weekends to wait for the students to return when she supervised them at the residence hall. Her funniest memory was of Sister Poverello, who accompanied her to the roof of Corona Hall at Alverno College, using a ladder to get outside the bedroom of a sister who snored loudly. They wanted to serenade her. Unfortunately, Sister Poverello fell off the ladder and broke her ankle. Every time they went to the doctor for it, the two of them laughed! Finally, the doctor asked why they laughed when they came to see him, so they told him how Poverello had broken her ankle.
Clement Manor was her home for 14 years after retiring from Alverno. She made many good friends there. Now “Sacred Heart is a great place to live,” according to Sister Carmelyn. She feels so fortunate that she can be in her room if she wants to be, where staff and the sisters visit her frequently. She is never lonesome. She can go to the chapel and she is willing to wait for people to help her. Her niece and a nephew, the children of her only brother, come to see her and call very regularly. Her family name will live on through them, but it will also do so, because of the city with her name in Iowa. Her sense of humor brings so much joy to others, especially those who lived with her and who are now at Sacred Heart, too.
If a woman would be interested in religious life today, Sister Carmelyn would tell her of the joy she has experienced by going out to help people wherever she was asked by the community to use her gifts and talents. She loved mingling with the people with whom she worked to make life meaningful.
God bless you, Sister Carmelyn, for your 75 years of service to God, to the School Sister of St. Francis community, and to the people of God.
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