On November 19, 1927, a baby girl was born at the William and Anna Vogl farm home in Athens, Wisconsin. The child, baptized Marcella, had an older brother and sister, James and Marie. Later a younger brother and sister, Charles and Helen, completed the family. Marcella was the middle child and often said, “I am the ‘good stuff’ in the middle.” Her brothers and sisters didn’t always agree with that comment!
Being a very devoted Catholic family, Marcella and all her brothers and sisters went to St. Anthony Catholic Grade School, taught by the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration from La Crosse, Wisconsin. Marcella just loved the sisters and made up her mind that she would become one of them after eighth grade.
During the Depression years the Vogl family lost the farm and moved to Dorchester. There, the Vogl children attended St. Louis Catholic School, taught by the School Sisters of St. Francis from Milwaukee. There were three School Sisters in the parish. Sister Ametista taught grades one through four and trained the altar boys. Sister Annette taught the upper grades, was the organist, and directed the choir. Sister Balsemia was the homemaker. The Vogl children loved the sisters and helped them do church work on Saturdays.
After three years, they moved back to Athens. Her dad was hired by a man up north to help in the logging business. Marcella went back to St. Anthony Grade School to finish eighth grade. She loved Sister Roberta, the eighth-grade teacher, and informed her that she wanted to enter the convent. Sister Roberta was very happy with this news but informed Marcella that she needed to be 15 years of age before entering the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.
Marcella didn’t give up and called the sisters in Dorchester. Sister Annette told her that she could ride the train with them to the School Sisters of St. Francis Convent in Milwaukee when they finished teaching summer school religion classes. So after discussing this with her mom and dad, on June 19, 1941, they drove her to Dorchester and she joined the sisters on the 10:00 p.m. train heading to Milwaukee, stopping in Waukesha around 4:00 a.m. to take an interurban train to Milwaukee, hoping to be there on time for Mass.
The aspirants were home on their visit, so after breakfast, Sister Dorissa, the aspirant mistress, took Marcella to Sister Hadimar’s sewing room for an aspirant’s garb. Soon Marcella was dressed as an aspirant. One of the first aspirants she met was Patricia Blackbird. They became very good friends.
When the rest of the aspirants returned from their home visits, all were taken to Madonna High School in Aurora, Illinois, to continue their high school education. Marcella and Patricia joined them to begin their freshman classes.
After summer school, it was back to the Motherhouse and regular high school classes.
Studies and religious training went on and Reception finally came on June 13, 1944. Marcella’s family was present for the celebration. Marcella received the name Sister Willmara! What a name! She tried to bear it in a worthy manner. After two years of novitiate, Sister Willmara was ready to be professed, so on June 21, 1946, she made her first vows.
The summer of 1946 was spent taking classes that would enrich her in dietetics. One day after summer school had been completed, Sister Johannella told Sister Willmara that she was to be going on mission. Although she was being prepared to be a dietitian, she was told to pack her trunk because she would be leaving the next day to teach first grade at Our Lady of Victory in Chicago. It was not easy to teach first grade with no preparation, but she did enjoy being with little children. Sister taught first grade at Our Lady of Victory for 15 years.
In 1961, Sister was assigned to teach first grade at Holy Ghost School in Milwaukee, where she also assumed the role of “critic teacher” for students from Alverno College.
Vatican ll brought changes to religious life and Sister Willmara went back to a derivative of her baptismal name, Sister Marcia.
After six years she was asked to take the position of Assistant Supervisor for Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. She held this position for two years, after which time she volunteered at Walkers Point Elementary school (formerly St. Wenceslaus). When the Walkers Point program closed due to financial problems, Sister Marcia taught first grade at Our Lady of Sorrows for two years.
In 1975, Sister took a position at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Cross Plains, which included religious education of children from St. Francis Xavier, St. Barnabas, Mazomanie, and Mill Creek.
Four years later, she accepted a position as principal of St. Mary School in Sheboygan Falls. She ministered there for 21 years. Rather than leaving the parish, she was asked to take on the role of coordinator for the “Senior Saints.” This she accepted and enjoyed and served for six years.
In 2005, she was asked to serve as a volunteer in personal services at St. Joseph Convent in Campbellsport. This task she assumed and served well. At the closing of Campbellsport convent, she moved to Sacred Heart in Milwaukee with her new ministry of prayer and presence.
Sister Marcia was a very spiritual person and a perfectionist. She endeared herself to all she ministered with and to those to whom she ministered. She loved a good laugh and her Franciscan love for God’s creatures favored cats. Word search puzzle books kept her alert and on target until a few weeks before the Lord called her home.
We thank you, Sister Marcia, for your 76 years of faithful Franciscan living. Your life has been full with varied ministries. You have used your gifts and talents for the service of others. Now in this Christmas season, the glory of the Lord has been revealed to you as you see God face to face.