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Sister Mary Michaeline (Irene Medzihradsky)

List of deceased Sisters

Date of death 17/03/2020

SMSM SistersSr. Mary Michaeline MEDZIHRADSKY smsm

April 17th,1921 – March 17th, 2020

Sr. Mary Michaeline was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1921, the only daughter of five children born to Ludvig and Julia Klassa Medzihradsky, who had been born in Czechoslovakia. She was baptized Irene Medzihradsky. She attended St Stephen’s Commercial High School, where she learned the skills of secretarial work and bookkeeping that she would use throughout her life. She graduated with honors but was only 17, and in those Depression Years young people could not get a paying job until the age of 18. She continued with Commercial Studies at Night School until she was 18 and then got a good job in downtown Cleveland.

When the United States entered the Second World War after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, everyone’s lives were changed. When all the men were drafted to serve in the military, thousands of women took their jobs in factories, especially in the production of airplanes. Michaeline wrote: “I left my secretarial work, got training to become a Precision Inspector...in a plant that was assembling planes for the war. I learned to rivet, inspect parts, and earned 3 times more than I did doing secretarial work, which I gave to my parents.”

Sr Michaeline wrote that she had long wanted to become a Sister but did not know how or where. Sometime after 1941, she met Sr Mary Michael Sedlac smsm, who was on a home visit to her family. Once Michaeline heard about the Marist Missionary Sisters, she knew that this was the place for her. She entered the SMSM on August 2nd, 1945 and made her first vows in Bedford on February 2nd, 1948.

For the next year and a half, she remained in Bedford, training the novices in cooking skills. Then, in September 1949, she was missioned to Hansen Home in Jamaica, where she did the bookkeeping and general office work for the leprosarium.

In 1957 she returned to the USA, and for the next 11 years was involved in financial and administrative work for the Region, which, in1964, became the Province of North America.

Finally, in 1968 she received another mission assignment: this time to Bougainville in Papua New Guinea.

After 3 months in Australia, Michaeline arrived in Moratona, Bougainville on September 3rd, 1968, and taught at the Primary School for one year.  But soon her skills in Secretarial work and Accountancy were again called upon, and in 1970 she was asked to work as the Regional Bursar for the SMSM and also at the Bishop’s Office in Kieta.  In her “spare time” she taught religious education classes and preparation of children for First Communion. 

It was perhaps during this time that she felt the desire to be “closer to the people” – to be involved in pastoral ministry and also “prayer ministry”.  She was sent to the East Asia Pastoral Institute in Manila from September 1972 – June ‘73 to do Pastoral Studies.

When she returned to Bougainville, she was assigned to Tunuru, to do pastoral ministry in Arawa Town.  Sister Margaret Tisch, who was with Michaeline at that time has written:

“Michaeline, when she lived at Tunuru, in Bougainville would go out in the evenings to prayer meetings...and then come home and kneel in the chapel for hours and fall asleep on the prayer stool.  She was a woman of prayer.”

She returned to the USA from Bougainville in 1990 with 8 other American Sisters who were evacuated because of the civil war on the island. At that time our Province opened a community in Rocky Creek Village in Tampa Florida and Michaeline was among the first group to volunteer to go there.  For her, and for many others, it was not just a place to “retire” but it was an opportunity to continue to minister to others.  Our Sisters reached out to other residents there who were lonely or needed help moving around or serving their food in the dining room.  Michaeline did this, serving as a “Senior Companion” to others in the village for many years, but she also went beyond the Village.

During her 17 years in Tampa, Sr Michaeline spent many hours every week riding public transport to visit patients in hospitals, psychiatric patients in the Veterans Hospital, and people suffering from AIDS.

An article published in 2007 in “La Pensa”, a Florida Spanish language newspaper, told of a man who had carried the HIV virus for many years, who said, “I have known Sr Michaeline for 15 years.  I have no family.  She has always been at my side whenever I need to speak to someone.  When I feel sad, she is there to help me. She never judges me. She is my spiritual counselor and my best friend.  She is like a mother to me.”

In that same year, Sr Michaeline began to suffer a few health problems herself and she left Rocky Creek permanently, coming back to Waltham in June 2007.  She lived at 62 Newton Street, doing some community service, and volunteering as a Eucharistic Minister at Maristhill Nursing Home. In August 2008 Sr Michaeline was sent to the Marillac Assisted Living Residence in Wellesley Hills. Once again, she served within the community as a Eucharistic minister and visited and prayed with those residents who were sick.  Also, once again she went beyond the Residence to participate in the Arise program in the parish and to attend Charismatic Prayer groups.

Eventually, of course, she had to slow down.  But she often seemed surprised or indignant that this was necessary.  She would say “But I can’t do what I used to be able to do! – I’m even forgetting things!”  Assured that this was “normal” for a person in her late 90’s, she would shake her head in wonder.

Of course, Michaeline was not “like everyone” – she was exceptional in so many ways. Her sincerity, her openness, her heartfelt desire to grow daily in the love of the Lord and the love of people, especially those most in need, grew throughout her life. May she finally rest in peace in the presence of Jesus and Mary and may we all remain inspired by her memory.

Gratefully in Mary,                                                                                        

                                            

Sister Helen Muller, smsm                                                      Sister Virginia Fornasa, smsm

Regional Leader                                                                     Communications Secretary