Did you know...?

Posted on: April 8, 2016 2:00 pm
Tags: Did you know, Blog,

Sr. Mary Philomena with St. Agnes students

by Sr. Mary Joan Terese Niklas

Did you the 1920s, Sister Mary Philomena was called upon to take charge of the fundraising for the building of a provincial house on Dixie Highway and organizing the St. Joseph Heights Home Association? Members of the Association worked tirelessly through festivals and card parties to bring the dream to fulfillment with the dedication of the new construction in November 1927.

During the great Depression that began in 1929, the Sisters feared the loss of their provincial house. Then Sr. M. Philomena began a series of travels pleading her cause with corporation executives in local areas, as well as distant states. She suffered many humiliations from some gruff businessmen, but they mellowed under the influence of her Irish wit. Not only did she succeed in obtaining financial aid, but also friendships begun during those challenging days were continued throughout life by the family generations that followed.

In the 1960s Sr. M. Philomena began taking meals in the Infirmary, but retained her Association Office on the first floor of the provincial house. In 1971, due to health issues, she was relieved of her responsibilities with the Association Office.

Sr. M. Philomena celebrated a series of Jubilees: Silver (25 years of profession); Golden (50 years); Diamond (60 years); Iron (65 years); and Grace (75 years). See picture of Sr. M. Philomena on the occasion of a Jubilee celebration. The young students from St. Agnes School were “little angels” that accompanied the Jubilarian.

Sr. M. Philomena (Henrietta Phelps) was born in White Pigeon, Michigan in 1883. At 11 years of age, her mother went home to God. One day when Henrietta (Etta) went ice skating, the ice broke and she fell into the cold water. A serious lung condition developed. Etta promised Our Lady, “If I am cured, I’ll enter the convent and dedicate my life to the service of Christ.” Her health improved and she entered the convent! For more than 25 years she taught elementary grades in Cleveland, Toledo, and Canton, Ohio, as well as Covington, Kentucky.

Sr. M. Philomena’s death in November 1977 coincided with the annual Kermess that the Association was sponsoring. In addition, the Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on November 12 that recalled the dedication of the provincial house on November 13, 1927--50 years earlier. The celebrant of the Mass was the chaplain of the provincial house, Father Richard McGrath. During the homily he commented that Sr. M. Philomena demonstrated the way to serve the Lord with joy.

This affirmed Sister’s promise to Our Lady, “If I am cured, I’ll enter the convent and dedicate my life to the service of Christ.”

"Did you know...?" is a monthly blog by Sr. Mary Joan Terese Niklas, archivist for the Covington Sisters of Notre Dame.


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