Sister Dolores Stephens, SNDdeN
September 23, 1931 — May 30, 2011
Dolores was born on September 23, 1931, in Dayton, Ohio, to Fred and Philomena (nee Dues) Stephans. Our Lady of Mercy Parish would play an important role in Dolores’ early life. She was baptized on October 4, 1931 and confirmed there on April 17, 1942. She also attended the parish school and graduated in 1945. For her secondary education Dolores attended Julienne High School graduating from there on June 5, 1949. It was during her high school days that she first met the Sisters of Notre Dame. She found that she was drawn to the sisters through their characteristic virtues of simplicity, charity and obedience.
It seemed logical for her to enter with the Sisters. This she did on July 7, 1949. After the postulancy at Mount Notre Dame in Reading, Ohio, she became a novice on January 28, 1950, when she chose for her religious name Sister Anthony. Her first vows were taken on January 26, 1952 and her final vows on August 13, 1957. Sister began using her baptismal name again in 1968.
Sister Anthony began a first phase of her life of ministry in various schools and cities. The schools included St. Robert Bellarmine in Chicago; Our Lady of the Rosary in Dayton; Cardinal Pacelli and The Summit in Cincinnati; Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Reading and finally at St. Eugene in Detroit. Several years into her teaching ministries, she received a BS in Ed from the University of Dayton.
Sister Dolores’ favorite students were children in the earlier grades. She took courses which would help her to do the best job possible. She studied and taught Montessori methods completing an internship in 1969. Her favorite subject was math. She received a National Science Foundation grant to study “The New Math Curriculum" which introduced her to the most recent changes in math concepts.
Over the years, Dolores spent her summers in Arizona teaching in the CCD program there or cooking in small communities. Evenings, she joined Sisters of Notre Dame who tutored at Martin de or Porres Center. Sister also continued taking courses or seminars which would enrich her professional life as a teacher.
After 21 years in the classroom, Dolores began her second phase of ministry, this time to her sisters in community. From the very beginning of her new responsibilities, she was so sure that she was still about “furthering the work of Christ Jesus in the universe.” She would go about doing that by providing cheerful service while preparing healthy and attractive meals for the community. This service would free up her Sisters so that they would be better able to perform their religious and apostolic tasks. No small vision that!
Once again Sister Dolores prepared herself for those services to her sisters. She attended courses at Wright Junior College in Meat Preparation, Creating hors d' Oeurves and a Course on Today’s Kitchen. That pursuit earned her a Certificate as a Food Service Manager from the State of Illinois.
Saturday mornings would find Dolores sitting at a large table in the dining room. Spread out before her was a recipe box as well as several Cook Books. It was her version of preparing lesson plans. It enabled her to shop for what was needed throughout the week. Sister always identified herself as a food service manager and that she was. She ordered the food, went to the local butcher shop, took trips to procure fresh fruit and vegetables, and used coupons at the local grocery. Dolores did not drive but she did her shopping while riding her bike. People in the stores were so used to seeing her that she became known as the “Bike Nun.” She did this for years until she hit a stone and broke her nose. One of the store managers then gave her a cart to use. When this became a bit difficult, she willingly changed her early morning routine for shopping to the afternoon or evenings when the Sisters were able to accompany her.
Visitors were always welcome at her table and there was always room for one more. Family members were made to feel at home. She had an open door policy for the Sisters to use the kitchen. Only a request and a date were necessary. Sisters felt free to bake cakes or make desserts when they were going to visit their families.
Dolores finally decided to come to the Mount Notre Dame Health Center after 27 years of 24/7 service to her sisters at the Chicago convent. Her stay here was too short. She left us so quickly but in the five years with us she adjusted to the life and rhythm in Marian Hall. She was especially grateful for the new opportunities to serve in new and different ways for her as a devoted member of the province Peace and Justice Committee. She became very involved reading widely about the issues pertinent to that committee’s focus, most recently with trafficking. She kept a file up-to-date for the group. She was persistent in getting Sisters to sign petitions regarding various issues. She took the time to explain to them the reasons for their support and signatures. She could have been described as a serious book reader.
Sister Dolores also took advantage of many outings and was usually the first to sign the car log. It was as if all the times she had been unable to avail herself of movies, outings or mall shopping, now she could do so. It was like a new lease on life for her.
If food was in Dolores’ blood so was prayer. At the time of her entrance into the novitiate she answered one of the questions, “Do you like to pray” with two simple words. “Very much.” Her prayer life seemed to be centered on the Scriptures and spiritual reading. Her attendance at daily Mass was very important to her. She frequently attended events sponsored by the diocese or the intercommunity religious groups. But once again two remarkable sentences were found among her papers. Written many years ago at the time of her entrance into Notre Dame the words seem at the end of her journey to best sum up her own deepest desires for her life as a Sister of Notre Dame. Dolores wrote, “I have never regretted having entered and I never will. I understand the religious life to be a life of sacrifice, but full of opportunities.”
As we once again reluctantly take leave of one of our dear sisters, we thank the good God that her five years here at Mount Notre Dame Health Center enabled her to realize her deepest desires when she entered Notre Dame. We believe that Dolores is enjoying the Resurrection of Christ in a new way. We ask her to pray “very much” for us.
Sister Louanna Orth, SNDdeN
May 30, 2011