Sister Vivian Graff


Sister Vivian Graff

Born to Life
June 15, 1926
Chicago, Illinois

June 13, 1953

Born to Eternal Life
November 30, 2023
Sacred Heart
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Mt. Olivet Cemetery
Milwaukee, Wisconsin


We all know Sister Vivian Graff as a very patient and accommodating person. As the saying goes, “Those qualities were part of her genes!”

We also know that some jobs have certain peak times during the month. For Raymond Graff – her father – a banker, the last couple of days of the month were crucial as he needed the time to finalize reports regarding the bank’s financial status. Marguerite Graff – her mother – a lead secretary for a Chicago corporation, needed the same time to process the executives’ last-minute letters that needed a postmark prior to the end of the month.

The birth of Frank and Marguerite’s only child accommodated both parents’ schedules! She was baptized Vivian at St. Genevieve Church on Chicago’s northwest side.

Vivian related that due to her parents’ heavy work schedules, her Grandma really raised her. A cousin lived near her Grandma. The two became inseparable and as Vivian explained, “We welcomed trading turf. First we played at Grandma’s house. Then we’d play at my cousin’s house. It was never boring!”

For grades one through eight, Vivian was taught by the Sisters of Providence. Her high school years were spent at Alvernia High School, where she became acquainted with the School Sisters of St. Francis.

Learning another language was mandatory at Alvernia. German and Latin were the offered courses. Because World War II was raging at the time, Vivian chose to study four years of Latin rather than German. Sister Primosa’s method of teaching the language was so lively and interesting that it became Vivian’s favorite course, followed by mathematics, which was taught by Sister Zoerita.

By the end of her senior year her admiration and respect for the School Sisters of St. Francis was so great that she announced to her relatives that she was going to Milwaukee to join them. This was a great disappointment for her aunt, her dad’s sister, who was a member of Our Lady of Victory Sisters and had her heart set on Vivian joining them.

It was in the fall of 1944 that Vivian became a postulant at St. Joseph Convent. She spent the next nine months attending Alverno College and in June 1945, she was received into the School Sisters of St. Francis and given the name Sister Marcelia. During her second year of Novitiate, she continued to work on her college education.

Immediately after her Profession, she was assigned to St. Liborius School in Steger, Illinois, to teach grades one through four with an average of 40 students in each grade. Sister Vivian taught for a total of eight years. She often said, “For me, teaching was tough and I wasn’t good at it.” 

She was able to express her concerns and requested a change of work. To her delight, she was assigned to St. Joseph Convent in Campbellsport for four years where she did a variety of jobs and was soon dubbed “the Jill of all trades.” Vivian could accommodate her time and skills to any situation.

Next followed five years at Waupun Memorial Hospital, where she was the assistant dietitian. Again, these were years where she enjoyed everything, everybody, every day!

During the summer of 1961, Sister Vivian substituted at Alverno College. After experiencing her patient and accommodating manner, Sister Jutta requested a transfer for Sister Vivian to Alverno to work in various support areas. This was another great adventure! She learned every job that came her way. Whatever and wherever she could be of service, she was!

In 1985, a position opened at the college’s mail room and Vivian was in charge of the mailroom for the next 25 years. By that time, she said, “I’ve worked myself into retirement!” She chose to retire at St. Joseph Convent Motherhouse. She immediately felt at home because she was surrounded by many sisters who had worked, lived, or studied at Alverno and who were delighted to live with her again. Together they could again share their prayer, faith, and the day-to-day life experiences.

In May 2013, Sister Vivian patiently accommodated herself to yet another change. Along with other sisters from the Motherhouse, she moved to Sacred Heart Convent. Even as her eyesight failed and her knees didn’t carry her, she continued to be a selfless friend to many as she lived and shared a life of prayer and presence.

Sister Vivian, we are so grateful to you for all the years of sharing your life, which was so rooted in Christ and woven in love as a true Franciscan. Go now, and be at peace!



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Sister Vivian

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