March 20, 1918 — October 15, 2011
Sister Mary Christine Mitchell was a true daughter of St. Julie. In her quiet manner, she exemplified the spirit of Julie as she spoke and as she responded to those whom she served. From the very beginning of her religious life Sr. Mary Christine echoed the thoughts and feelings that we now recognize as common to St. Julie. In many of her recorded comments she repeated Julie’s theme of joy: joy of living; spreading joy as a goal of her life; joy in all aspects of her life. This theme of joy continued to permeate her life — in teaching – in Province service – in visiting the sick and elderly.
During her long life of ministry Sr. Mary Christine spent 25 years in the class-room; 22 years in Province service; 11 years as a receptionist/clerical assistant; 12 years in community service/ministry of prayer. Each of these ministries took her to areas dear to the heart of St. Julie.
Sr. Mary Christine began her years of teaching at St. Robert Bellarmine, Chicago, Illinois with lively third graders (1944-1947). This was followed by three years at St. Patrick School in Columbus, Ohio teaching fifth and sixth graders (1947-1950). Next she taught high school teenagers. First at St. Joseph Academy in Columbus (1952-1958). Then she went to St. Xavier Commercial High School in Cincinnati, Ohio (1958-1959). From there she went to Notre Dame High school in Hamilton, Ohio (1959-1963) then on to Notre Dame High School in Chicago, Illinois (1963-1965). She returned to St. Joseph Academy in Columbus (1965-1969). In these high schools she taught a variety of courses in religion, English and business. As she left her work in the classroom, Sr. Mary Christine reflected that “teaching is such a wonderful way to reach others; I wish I could start over again.”
Along with her school assignments, Sister Mary Christine completed the required courses to receive a Bachelor of Arts in English from St. Mary of the Springs, Columbus, Ohio (1952) and a Master of Arts from Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (1962). In 1967 she was awarded a Journalism Fellowship for Business Training at St. Mary of the Springs College for a summer program. Thus her academic background was firmly established.
Although Sr. Mary Christine stated in her application for admission to the Sisters of Notre Dame that she “loved office work, but there won’t be much of that to do, “ she headed into almost 30 years of Province service as Provincial Secretary, Communications Secretary and then as receptionist/clerical assistant for the Province offices. Obviously, there was plenty of it to do! The final twelve years of her life she spent in community service and the ministry of prayer.
Through all of the years of her religious life, Sister Mary Christine continued to grow in her desire to spread joy. A phrase which became a part of her was her regular response to “How are you?” was “I am blessed!” Another keynote expression of hers was “I want to spend Heaven floating around making people smile!” …and she started doing this here on earth.
It was her strong family background that strengthened and prepared her for her long life in ministry as a Sister of Notre Dame. She began life on March 20, 1918, in Columbus, Ohio, the daughter of Charles and Anna Mitchell. She was the fourth child in the family. She had two brothers and three sisters who made life interesting for her! She began her Christian journey when she was baptized at St. Aloysius Church. She received the name Mildred as she was known until she later received the religious name Sr. Mary Christine. It was also at St. Aloysius Church that she was confirmed.
After she completed her elementary education, Mildred went to St. Joseph Academy for high school. There she met the Sisters of Notre Dame. Through her teachers she came to know these Sisters as really inspiring people and to know their Sister of Notre Dame spirit as well.
Through her family and school experiences Sister Mary Christine developed a loving, giving spirit which led her to respond eagerly to the gift of vocation. Her comments on her application form reveal the depth of these experiences. In response to the question “Why do you wish to enter religious life?” she replied: “. . .to learn to love God to the best of my ability and to help others to love Him.” Later, on her request to make vows, she stated firmly, “I left the world that I might learn to glorify and to serve God as perfectly as possible and I see religious life as a life of love, generosity, obedience and prayer where I can do this.”
Along with her deep feelings of love and joy, she used her natural gifts to bring joy to those around her. Sister Mary Christine had the gift of writing poetry and songs to celebrate the many special events in the lives of her sisters and fellow workers. Her ability to match words and music was uncanny. Even with her failing eyesight she would celebrate events in the lives of those around her with an appropriate song that caught the spirit of the event in a new song that was delightful – and easy to sing. The collected folders of her works in the archives – that does not have all of them – are bulging! There are songs/poems of welcome and farewell; birthday greetings; celebration of special events including jubilees, feast days, gratitude for special services and grace for meals of notable events. One special project of hers will be missed by many of us – a poem written for each member of her local community and for her work associates on her/his birthday!
On October 15, 2011, the final call came for Sister Mary Christine. She went quickly and quietly to meet her Lord. It must have been a beautiful loving encounter. Certainly it was one full of JOY! We, Sisters of Notre Dame with her blood sisters, Sister Annrita and Polly, and other members of her family will miss this source of joy in our lives. But we know she now has the better part, and we rejoice with her as she experiences the fullness of a joyful life. Certainly Sister Mary Christine is singing the words of the Communion antiphon from the liturgy on the day of her Death:
Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord!
Sister Alma Grollig, SNDdeN
October 15, 2011