Sister Mary Wolfe, BVM (Nicodema), 89, died April 28, 2014, at Marian Hall in Dubuque, Iowa. Visitation will be from 9–11 a.m. on Friday, May 2, 2014, in the Marian Hall Chapel followed by a prayer service at 11 a.m. Funeral liturgy will be at 1:30 p.m. Burial is in the Mount Carmel cemetery.
She was born Feb. 2, 1925, to Nicholas and Ruth Brander Wolfe. She entered the BVM congregation from St. Stanislaus Parish, Kansas City, Mo., on Feb. 2, 1944. She professed first vows on Aug. 15, 1946, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1951.
Sister Mary taught elementary school in Chicago, Grayslake and Maywood, Ill.; Boone, Iowa; and West Hempstead and Hempstead, N.Y. She ministered as librarian in Chicago and Rock Island, Ill.; St. Louis; Memphis, Tenn.; and Phoenix. She served as a volunteer in Rock Island.
She was preceded in death by her parents and sisters: Genevieve, Rosemary and Patricia; and brothers: Julian, John, Charles, Frank and Vincent. She is survived by a brother James, Kansas City, Mo.; sister-in-law Lynn Wolfe, Henderson, Nev.; nieces; nephews; and the Sisters of Charity, BVM, with whom she shared life for 70 years.
Sister Mary (Nicodema) Wolfe, BVM
Marian Hall, May 2, 2014
Good afternoon and welcome to the celebration of life of our Sister Mary Wolfe.
Mary Ruth Wolfe entered this world on Feb. 2, 1925, as the sixth of 10 children born to Nicholas Wolfe and Ruth Brander of Kansas City, Mo. Her father was a porter and both parents worked hard and creatively to provide for their large family during the Depression. Mary was plagued with numerous illnesses in her early childhood. At the age of four, fearing she had rheumatic fever, she was sent to live with a childless couple to avoid spreading the disease to her nine siblings. Fortunately, she did not have rheumatic fever, but suffered instead from undernourishment. After three months of enjoying the couple’s TLC, her health improved and she had “filled out nicely.”
In her autobiography, Mary wrote, “My school years were filled with much happiness for I have always loved to learn, especially reading. I became a regular visitor to the library and an avid reader.” After graduating from St. Aloysius High School, Mary attended a business college on a scholarship and obtained a job at a music company while continuing to live at home.
Mary entered the congregation on Feb. 2, 1944, her 19th birthday, and received the name Nicodema upon her reception on Aug. 15, 1944. She professed her first vows on Aug. 15, 1946. She wrote, “My two and a half years at Mount Carmel were a mixture of joys, sorrows, trials and loving memories.” She went on to live 70 years as a BVM.
Mary taught in elementary schools for 20 years with missions in Chicago, Grayslake and Maywood, Ill.; Boone, Iowa; and 14 years in West Hempstead and Hempstead, N.Y. Recalling her first mission at St. Ferdinand School in Chicago, Mary wrote, “My first class was second grade with 40 students. It was the most difficult year of my 20 years teaching. There were 13 boys and girls who gave me a terrible time. The principal was right across the hall, which didn’t help. This situation prevailed until May when the children made their first confession and first communion. I had perfect peace the last month of school!”
After receiving her Master of Arts degree in library science, she served as the librarian at two congregational high schools: St. Mary in Chicago and Xavier in St. Louis, Mo. During the summer she volunteered to restore the library at an impoverished Catholic grade and high school staffed by BVMs in Clarksdale, Miss. Mary was also the audiovisual librarian at a Catholic co-ed high school in Memphis, Tenn. and the assistant school librarian at St. Matthew in Phoenix. In 1981, she took a position as cataloger at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill. Between her time in Phoenix and at Augustana College, Mary enjoyed a wellness program in St. Paul, Minn. There she developed clowning skits which she performed in various sites.
Mary continued to live in Rock Island with several sisters after retiring in 1990. During her retirement, she enjoyed traveling through the Elderhostel program and visited all 50 states. She volunteered with GED and English as a Second Language (ESL) programs, led communion and rosary services and visited residents at St. Anthony Continuing Care Center in Rock Island, Ill., served as a Legion of Mary leader, was an archivist at Sacred Heart in Moline, Ill., and a choir member at Sacred Heart Parish in Rock Island.
Mary wrote, “I did not want to sit around so I volunteered . . . I love working with people who want to learn . . . I helped two of my students become American citizens.” She took a personal interest in her adult students, such as helping refugees secure furniture for their living space. Known as an environmentalist for decades, Mary urged her housemates to recycle, too. An avid walker, she picked up trash along the road and recycled and sold pop cans to donate proceeds to the Sacred Heart food pantry. She also collected “good” waste water and used it to water plants and to wash the recyclable trash. In recognition of her volunteering and recycling efforts in Rock Island, Mary received the Keep Rock Island Beautiful award in 2008 and was honored with a mayoral declaration of “Sister Mary Wolfe Day” on Feb. 12, 2010.”
Mary moved to Mount Carmel in 2010. Her theme over the past two years has been to choose life, and recently, to choose eternal life which, as written in the Gospel of John, is “to know . . . the only true God, and to know Jesus Christ, whom God sent.” This hope was evident in Mary’s request that those attending her funeral should not wear black because her death should be a moment of rejoicing, not mourning. In that spirit, let us rejoice for and with her as she enters into the joy of eternal life.