We honor the lives and the legacies of the recent Sisters who have gone before us. The Sisters whose selfless work and devotion to our mission created the foundation for who we are today.
Sr. Ann Vincent Kucirek
May 14, 1916 – August 13, 2018
Sister Ann Vincent Kucirek, a Sister of St. Mary of Namur, died August 13, 2018, at the age of 98.
Memorial from the North Texas Catholic
by Joan Kurkowski-Gillen
Not everyone can say they remained friends with a former teacher for 69 years. But Sister Ann Vincent Kucirek was someone special, according to Dr. Ann Tucker.
“I’m not Catholic but my parents sent me to St. Alice (now Holy Family) School where Sr. Ann taught me in the fourth grade,” remembered the former student. “We stayed in touch and became close friends. She was a big influence on my life and we shared a lifetime of memories.”
A skilled teacher and administrator who served at several schools operated by her religious order, the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur, Sr. Ann Vincent passed away Aug. 13 at the age of 98. Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson celebrated a Mass of Christian Burial Aug. 16 at Our Lady of Victory Center. Interment was in Mount Olivet Cemetery.
Although trained as a clinical psychologist in behavioral medicine, Dr. Tucker learned more about dealing with people from Sr. Ann Vincent than she ever did from books.
“She always talked about being ‘present’ and I never really understood what that meant until I watched her,” the psychologist said. “She met people wherever they were in life — whatever faith group or background, rich or poor. She was wonderful to everyone.”
Sr. Ann Vincent was a member of her religious community for 71 years, joining the SSMN order at age 27. Born in Omaha, Neb. and the oldest of six children, she attended a Benedictine Academy in Lisle, Ill. As a young woman, she worked in accounting at a large factory in Omaha.
It was during this time that her brother, stationed in Waco during World War II, would visit the Sisters of St. Mary at Sacred Heart Academy. When a teaching position opened at the school, he recommended his sister, Frances (her baptismal name), for the job.
After working with the sisters for a year, the new teacher felt called to join the order.
Fellow sisters who knew Sr. Ann Vincent during the early convent years recalled her fascination with Texas and how different it was from Omaha.
“For example, she had never seen magnolia trees in bloom and loved looking at them when we went walking around the yard near Our Lady’s grotto behind the building,” they said.
Years later, the nature enthusiast showed the same delight for the “steep red canyons where Indians once roamed” while visiting Copper Breaks State Park with other members of her religious community for a sunrise breakfast.
Sr. Ann Vincent was older for the novitiate than some of the sisters who joined after high school, “and I think that, coupled with her maturity, is why she became a teacher and principal at a very young age,” said Ann Tillery Edmonds, an alumna of Our Lady of Victory Academy and longtime friend. “She always had a very cool head and a great deal of common sense.”
The seasoned educator loved working with students. As her health failed, Edmonds often visited the ailing sister and the pair spoke about her years in the classroom.
“She really perked up when I told her that OLV was getting ready to begin the school year,” Edmonds added.
Sr. Ann Vincent served as a teacher and/or principal at St. Alice (Holy Family) School, St. Anne in Beaumont, St. Mary in Fort Worth (now closed), St. Maria Goretti in Arlington, and Our Lady of Victory.
After retiring from Catholic education, she joined Sister Rita Claire Davis, SSMN and Sister Mary Michael Dittoe, SSMN, in pastoral ministry at the rural parishes of Rhineland, Knox City, and Crowell. The sisters founded the House of Prayer in Rhineland and helped the area’s undocumented farm and ranch families begin the immigration process.
After returning to Fort Worth, the energetic sister went to work for Catholic Charities Fort Worth as an administrative assistant spending the last few years involved in the agency’s Casa Inc. program. The outreach provides affordable housing for low-income, elderly, and disabled senior citizens.
“She was very good at that job,” said Dr. Tucker who was also employed at Catholic Charities for a short time. “I got to watch her work with some very low-income people. Ann was very caring.”
Often recognized because of her height — she measured a statuesque 5 ft. 10 inches — Sr. Ann Vincent was known as an avid walker.
“Anytime she could walk somewhere, she would,” said Dr. Tucker, describing her friend as a “giant” walker who probably acquired the habit from her father. “Ann walked during lunch every day. When she broke her hip, the surgeon was amazed at the condition of the ligaments and muscles at her age.”
Linda Kuntz, principal at Our Lady of Victory, was an OLV eighth grader when Sr. Ann Vincent was chief administrator at the school. In addition to duties as principal, her predecessor also taught religion classes.
“When I was teaching kindergarten at OLV, and the children were out at recess, we would see Sr. Ann walking around the grotto and Stations of the Cross,” Kuntz reminisced. “I would walk over to say hi and all my students would follow to say hello as well.”
Sr. Ann Vincent was always happy and had a smile on her face, she added.
Her friends attribute Sr. Ann Vincent’s long life to her penchant for fresh air, exercise, and a resolute prayer life.
“Her siblings all predeceased her,” Dr. Tucker explained. “She was very prayerful and contemplative, but funny as a train wreck. Ann had a very good, dry sense of humor and never got depressed like a lot of older people. Her outlook was always positive.”
Survivors included extended family members in Omaha, many friends, former pupils, and her religious community.
Quote from Sr. Ann Vincent:
“Each day in simplicity and joy of heart, I gratefully offer all to you, my God.”
Memorials may be sent to Sisters of Saint Mary, 909 West Shaw St, Fort Worth, TX 76110.
Sr. Dorothy May Flori
Dorothy May Flori was born in Waco, Texas, on September 18, 1925, to Aloysius William and Barbara Teresa Kohl Flori. She died on February 26, 2018, at Our Lady of Victory Center in Fort Worth.
In Waco, she and her siblings attended Sacred Heart Academy where she met the Sisters of Saint Mary of Namur.
In her Vocation Story we read, “When my senior teacher, Sister Genevieve, came to Waco for a visit, I went to see her just to visit because she was always interesting and friendly. I dressed up for the occasion. When Sister Genevieve commented on how nice I looked, instead of saying, “Thank you,”… I said, “How do you think I would look in a habit?”
I wasn’t thinking about entering the convent until that moment. When I got outside, I looked to God in the heavens with ‘I really do want to …’ which my mom and some of my friends already knew.”
Sr. Ursule Mboma
November 29, 1953 to March 28, 2017
Sr. Ursule Mboma Is our first Congolese sister to pass into Eternity. She was born in Congo in 1953 and entered religious life in 1973. The Lord gifted her with enormous human, moral and spiritual qualities. In the three countries where she lived, she left a legacy of a woman consecrated to God and free to love her brothers and sisters with a sincere universal love right up to the moment when the Lord took her back to himself on March 28, 2017 after a brief illness.
Sr. Marguerite Marie Hategekimana
August 14, 1958 to 2017
Sr. Marguerite Marie Hategekimana was born in 1958 in the northern part of Rwanda. She met our sisters in her village then called Rusasa after we founded a community there in 1978. She entered the Sisters of St Mary in 1982 and remained a faithful member until her death in 2017. She battled cancer for several years and died after a long period of patient suffering.
She will be remembered for her untiring zeal and charity for those who were abandoned because of HIV/AIDS. For several years she was responsible for our “House of Mercy” where these afflicted people were cared for. She is the third Rwandan Sister of St Mary to precede us into Eternal life.
Sr. Cecile Faget
August 1, 1923 – January 26, 2017
Sister Cecile Faget was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on August 1, 1923, to Louis E. and Cecile (Erichson) Faget. When she was ten, her family moved to Dallas, Texas, where her father was a cellist with the Dallas Symphony. She attended St. Edward’s Academy, graduating from the high school in 1940. After working as a secretary for three years and attending Loyola University in New Orleans in the evenings, she entered the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Mary in Fort Worth. Known then as Sister Mary Ignatius, she made her first vows in 1946 and her perpetual profession in 1952.
Sister Cecile studied English literature and received her B.A. from Our Lady of Victory College, her M.A. from the Catholic University of America, and her doctorate from the University of Ottawa. Her teaching career included elementary school at The Shrine of the True Cross, Dickinson, Texas; St. Cecilia School, Dallas; Academy of Mary Immaculate, Wichita Falls; and Resurrection School, Houston. She taught in high school one year at O.L.V. Academy and one year at Notre Dame High School in Wichita Falls.
As a graduate assistant, Sister Cecile taught one year at The Catholic University. She spent about ten years as a member of the English faculty at the University of Dallas.
After leaving the University of Dallas, Sister worked in various pastoral ministries: formation of catechists in the Diocese of Houston-Galveston; pastoral ministry at Sacred Heart Parish, Breckenridge and St. Francis Parish, Abilene; CCD and Spanish choir assistance in Resurrection Parish, Houston; food pantry and immigration assistance work at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Houston; and secretarial work at the Marriage Tribunal of the Diocese of Fort Worth. After retiring, she lived for four years in St. Jude’s Parish, Mansfield, assisting in the ESL program for adults. Upon returning to O.L.V. Center, she continued this work at Immaculate Heart of Mary, Fort Worth—until three days before her death.
Foreign mission assignments included a year in Lima, Peru; a year in Zihuatanejo, Mexico; four months in the Dominican Republic; and six months in Rwanda after their genocide in 1994.
Both Sister Cecile and her mother, who was also named Cecile, had a gift for languages and for poetry. Recently, Sister and several of the Oblates and Associates have been studying Hebrew with Dr. Toni Craven, professor emerita at Brite Divinity School, TCU, “just for fun.”
Sr. Devota (Mary Ruth) Sweeney
August 27, 1921 – October 8, 2016
Sister Devota (Mary Ruth) Sweeney was born on August 27, 1921 in Wichita Falls, Texas, to Clarence Francis and Sarah (Walsh) Sweeney. She attended the Academy of Mary Immaculate, and left there a semester before her graduation to enter the Sisters of St. Mary at Our Lady of Victory, Fort Worth, on February 2, 1939. Sister Devota made her first vows on August 15, 1941 and her perpetual profession on August 15, 1947. A true leader, Sister Devota devotedly served in multiple ministries throughout her long and fruitful years.
Sister Devota earned a B.A. degree from Our Lady of the Lake in 1967. In her earlier years, she taught at St. Anne’s, Beaumont; Our Lady of Victory, Fort Worth; St. Joseph Academy, Sherman; and Sacred Heart, Hollister, California.
In 1955, Sister Devota was asked to become the Superior of St. Mary’s Convent in Lowestoft, England. Sister willingly met this challenge so well that she was asked to serve on their Provincial Council. After three years Sister was named Provincial of the Western Province and served for six years.
Having learned many skills from an uncle in the lumber business, Sister Devota used her experience to assist the architect on the building of Notre Dame High School in Wichita Falls; she also helped to design Nolan and Bishop Dunne High Schools, as well as supervising the building of the SSMN Novitiate at UD.
Following the completion of her university studies at Our Lady of the Lake College in San Antonio, Sister became principal of St. James School in Dallas, then Superior and Principal at Resurrection School in Houston. In 1971, Sister Devota became a General Councilor and resided for a year in Jambes, Belgium. Continuing this work, but based in Texas, Sister served as Principal of Resurrection School in Houston. She then moved to St. Thomas More Parish where for ten years she was in charge of Religious Education from K to adults.
In 1986, a priest under whom she had studied in San Antonio, asked Sister Devota to assume charge of a retreat house in Houston. After a short time, she was asked to be in charge of Corpus Christi Academy where she remained, working in various capacities, until 1988.
In 1992, Sister returned to Fort Worth where she served as Coordinator of the Retirement Center for three years. Following a Sabbatical semester in England, Sister took up residence in Wichita Falls where she remained, teaching prayer at Notre Dame School, and helping to maintain a House of Prayer until 2011 when she returned to O.L.V. Retirement Center where she lived her final days.
In 2014 Sister celebrated her Diamond Jubilee as a Sister of St. Mary. On October 8, 2016, she peacefully gave her soul to the Lord.
Memorials may be made to the Sisters of Saint Mary of Namur, 909 West Shaw St. Fort Worth, TX 76110-4057.
Sr. Bernice Knapek
May 27, 1938 to September 29, 2015
Bernice Knapek, a Sister of Saint Mary of Namur, died on September 29, 2015.
Bernice Frances Knapek was born in Penelope, Texas, on May 27, 1938, the oldest daughter of John Knapek and Bertha Helona. Sister Bernice always reveled in her Czech heritage. Bernice was a student of the Sisters of Saint Mary of Namur from first grade at St. James’ School in South Oak Cliff through high school, graduating from Our Lady of Good Counsel in 1956.
She entered the Sisters of Saint Mary of Namur in September 1956, taking the name Sister Joan of the Annunciation. She later returned to her baptismal name. Sister Joan pronounced her perpetual vows on August 15, 1965.
Sister Bernice received a B.A. in Elementary Education from the University of Dallas in 1961, a Certificate of Religious Studies from Incarnate Word College San Antonio TX in 1964, and a M.A. in Administration from North Texas University, Denton, TX in 1983.
Sister Bernice began her long and successful career as an educator in Sister of Saint Mary elementary schools in Texas and California, serving as teacher and principal. Her longest principal tenure was at Our Lady of Victory School, Fort Worth, from 1984-1996.
Because she loved children, she thoroughly enjoyed the role of principal and knew each child by name. She encouraged the teachers to be the best for their students.
From 1996 to 2001, Sister Bernice served as Associate Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Fort Worth, working closely with Sister Marguerite Connors, SHSp, Superintendent.
Her final assignment was Holy Trinity Catholic Elementary School in Grapevine, TX. She served both as assistant principal and principal from 2003-2009.
After a sabbatical semester in San Antonio, Sister Bernice returned to the educational arena, volunteering at OLV Elementary and at St. George School and teaching classes for “Why Catholic?” program in her spare time.
Sister Bernice also served in Congregational leadership, as a member of Provincial Councils and then as Development Director. In 2013 she was a delegate to the General Chapter of the Sisters of Saint Mary held in Namur, Belgium. She was privileged to meet and share experiences with Sisters of Saint Mary from eight international provinces.
Sister Bernice shared her enthusiasm in community gatherings with her suggestions, questions, and opinions.
In the last weeks, her courage and determined spirit were a support for all of us.
She is survived by her brother Henry Knapek and his wife Doris, her sister Carolyn Knapek, many nieces, nephews, Czech relatives, the Sisters of her religious community and friends made through a lifetime of teaching, learning, consoling, traveling and joyful sharing of the Good News.
“Quietly, peacefully let me rest in you. Quietly peacefully lead me back to you.”
Memorials may be made to the Sisters of Saint Mary of Namur, 909 West Shaw St. Fort Worth, TX 76110-4057.
Sr. Marie Anthony Hunter
Sister Marie Anthony Hunter (Sister Alice Hunter), a retired educator, died at Our Lady of Victory Center on Friday January 23, 2015, at the age of 97.
Mass of Christian burial was celebrated by Father Jeremy Meyers, Pastor of Saint Mary’s Parish in Sherman at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, January 27 at Our Lady of Victory Center. Interment was at Mount Olivet Cemetery, Fort Worth.
Alice Fay Hunter was born in Fort Worth, TX in 1917. She graduated from Our Lady of Victory Academy, and, inspired by the example and teaching of Sister Gertrude Moore and Sister Elizabeth Williams, Alice entered the Sisters of Saint Mary in 1936, taking the religious name of Sister Marie Anthony.
Sister Marie Anthony was an excellent teacher whose classrooms were always full of music, dance, art and drama. She served as administrator and teacher in Sister of Saint Mary schools in Fort Worth, Beaumont, Dallas (at St. James School, St. Cecilia and the University of Dallas) and Sherman.
She earned a Bachelor of Arts from Our Lady of Victory College in 1946, and a Masters in Education from the Catholic University of America in 1954.
Her peak years were those in which she was involved with Learning Math with the Cuisenaire Rods. When this Method was introduced to the Diocese of Dallas in the 1960’s, Sister Mary Charles Payne and Sister Marie Anthony became “apostles” of the method. Sister Marie Anthony became the resident expert in the instructional system which uses relationships of colored “rods” to teach math. Sister Mary Charles used the method to teach Words in Color, a phonetic system of teaching reading using color to show the relationship between oral and written language.
Sister Marie Anthony was on the faculty of Education at the University of Dallas for 10 years, (1958-1968), teaching elementary school education and administration courses, and serving as the Assistant Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Dallas.
Sister Marie Anthony (now Sister Alice) recalled that her happiest years were the 20 years she spent as principal at St. Mary’s Parish School in Sherman, Texas, from 1972 to 1991. The “Sherman Sisters” community of Sister Mary Charles, Sister Alice, Sister Marion Celeste and Sister Regina taught at St. Mary’s for 25 years, retiring together from formal teaching in 1991. They continued to serve the parish until 1996 when the community relocated to Our Lady of Victory in Fort Worth.
Although her health declined in recent years, Sister Alice was committed to a life of prayer and community concerns until the end.
Sister Alice is survived by nieces and nephews and the sisters of her religious community. Memorials may be made to: The Sisters of Saint Mary of Namur, 909 West Shaw St.,
Fort Worth, TX 76110
Sr. Josephine Stewart
October 12, 1931 to May 8, 2014
Sister Josephine Stewart died peacefully on May 8, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas.
One of the founders of the Beginning Experience ministry, Sister Josephine Stewart, SSMN, was born October 12, 1931 in El Paso, Texas. She entered the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur at the age of 22. Sr. Stewart taught at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Dallas, Texas. In 1961, she became the Superior of Our Lady of Victory Convent and earned her master’s degree in education from St. Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri. In 1970, she attended “The Happening,” a program of encounter with self, others and God, which had a profound impact on her spirituality.
She worked on Marriage Tribunal cases in Fort Worth and did counseling, learning of the stress and grief of divorced Catholics. Along with Jo Lamia, a divorced friend, she wrote and developed the Beginning Experience® program; the initial weekend was presented Oct. 18-20, 1974. By 1977, Sister Josephine was devoted to the Beginning Experience® ministry full time. In 1981, after the ministry spread to Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand as well as many American states, Sister Josephine stepped aside, leaving the ministry in the capable hands of Fr. Guy Gau. Afterwards, she spent her time traveling, working with abused children and people with developmental disabilities, and wrote a book, We Are All Connected. She also recently completed her autobiography, Letting Go: The Way Into Abundance.
In November, 2016, the Sisters at OLV Center received word that Father Jeremy Myers, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Sherman, together with members of the parish, had placed this beautiful statue of Our Lady in the cemetery in honor of the Sisters of St. Mary who had taught in Sherman. The Sisters opened St. Joseph Academy there in 1877. After the high school was closed in the l960s, the Sisters continued teaching at St. Mary Elementary School until 1968. They remained in the parish, helping with CCD classes, tutoring, etc., until June, 1996 when the last three Sisters retired to Marion House, a small house behind OLV Center in Fort Worth.