April 2, 1925 — March 10, 2012
The word MEMOIRS is a very special one in the history of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Mother St. Joseph told us why she wrote the life of Saint Julie in her literary work. “For the consolation of the Sisters of Notre Dame I wish to continue the story of our Mother.” She continued to write the stories of many of the earliest Sisters. This tradition has continued in Notre Dame in various ways, one of which is the writing of a Memorial at the time of a Sister’s death. Sister Mary Grace left among her papers the following account of her story told with such reverence for how the good God had cared for her throughout her life. She left out many of the gifts, talents and kindnesses she shared with her Sisters, family, students and friends. They will be added in a post script manner afterwards.
SISTER MARY GRACE IN HER OWN WORDS
Grace Horst and Frank Burg were blessed by God with the birth of their second child on April 2, 1925 in Dayton, Ohio. I am that lucky person. I was baptized, made my first holy communion and was confirmed at St. James Church in Dayton, Ohio. I was privileged to have had two living brothers--Eugene, who was a year older than me and Robert, who was two years younger. There were also twins, a boy and a girl. I did not know them because they died at birth. We were a very close-knit family.
During my journey through life, God has blessed me with many people who helped me to be aware of His tremendous love for me. My earliest education began in my home. My parents often reminded me that God had a personal interest in every person He created, so I knew that He had a personal interest in me. I had a great desire to get to know more about this personal God who loved me so much that He created me.
The Sisters of Notre Dame also gave me an excellent education at St. James School and later at Julienne High School. During my high school years, I dreamed of going to college, but I knew that I would have to get a job if I were to fulfill that dream. I asked for permission to take business courses in addition to the college preparatory courses. This would mean that I would have no study periods. I was granted that permission.
When I was in the sixth grade my father, whom I idolized, died suddenly. A few months after his death I realized that God was calling me to be a religious. This was not what I had in mind to get to know God better. I quickly put the thought out of my mind. I did continue, however, to learn more about Him and to increase my love for Him.
God did not give up on me. During my senior year of high school, it was apparent to me that He really wanted me to serve Him as a religious. The example of my parents' deep faith and love for God, which they instilled in me, gave me the courage to say "Yes" to God. I felt that He was calling me to seek a greater love for and a deeper relationship with Him, and to share the depth of that love and relationship with all whom I met on the road of life. I was eager to begin my new mission in life.
God asked one more sacrifice from me. My brother who was the sole support for my family was drafted to serve our country during World War II. That meant that I would have to take his place to support the family. My becoming a religious was delayed until he returned home three years later. Even though this sacrifice was hard to take, I never regretted having had the privilege to serve my family and to learn business skills which I utilized later during my teaching career.
I worked at The American Gauge and Manufacturing Company in Dayton from 1943 to 1946. I learned many business skills there as secretary, payroll clerk and personnel director. When new office equipment came on the market, it was given to me to try. These machines ranged from dictating machines to calculators to electric typewriters and to my pride and joy the multilith. I was given the multilith to design a new logo for the company stationery and to print several thousand copies of it. This I did as my final gift to the company. The wealth of knowledge that I gained during my three years of employment far exceeded anything that I could do for that company.
I entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur on July 26, 1946. This was one of the happiest events in my life second only to the day I professed my vows to God forever. I chose Sister Mary Grace for my religious name. I chose Mary in honor of my heavenly mother and Grace in honor of my earthly mother. Mother was very surprised and pleased that I chose her name. She never had the privilege of sharing the joy of my profession with me, for God took her to Himself during the second year of my novitiate.
In 1951, I began my teaching career which spanned 35 years. I taught grades three, four, five and seven in Hamilton, and Columbus and Dayton for seven and a half years. In 1957, I began to teach business courses to high school students in Columbus and Cincinnati. During that time I was blessed to be able to touch the lives of hundreds of young men and young women.
My greatest joy for 27 years was to prepare them to enter the world of work as competent business men and women permeated with deep convictions, asking not what they could get out of life, but what they could give. I have lost contact with many of them over the years, but I have not forgotten them. I continue to pray for them and for their families.
In 1991, I began a new career as finance assistant in our province offices. Next to teaching, accounting is my first love. I cannot think of a better way to show my gratitude for all I have received from the Sisters of Notre Dame than to be of service as long as I can.
My life as a religious has been blessed in numerous ways. I am continually aware of the tremendous love God has for me. The time I spend regularly and consistently in prayer enables me to know God better, to have a greater awareness of His presence in my life, to deepen my love for Him, and to reverence the "holy" in each person He created. The work I was created to do is to shape my soul by freely responding to God, to life, and to those with whom I come in contact. This work will be complete when I draw my last breath as a final "Yes" to God. Then my joy will be complete when I hear God's welcome, "Come, bride of Christ, receive the crown that I have prepared for you, forever."
Sister did not date her story. What follows is an attempt to complete Sister’s account.
Mary Eileen entered Notre Dame as a postulant on July 26, 1946; became novice Sister Mary Grace on July 25, 1947; professed her first vows on January 29, 1949 and her final vows on August 13, 1954.
Her great skill in cross-stitching led to the creation of different items in various sizes. The above dates, Sister had woven into a truly beautiful cross-stitched piece for her Golden Jubilee. She framed the face of Christ in the middle with each of the above dates of her journey in Notre Dame with scriptural quotes.
She began her service to the community already in the novitiate where she taught the novices calligraphy. It was a great gift she gave to other novices who were able to design attractive bulletin boards in their classrooms many years later. Sister Mary Grace continued using her skills in posters, place cards and many other materials associated with community feast days. Her style was easily recognized. Sister’s nimble fingers, which were most often used for typing, she also used to add crocheting and cross stitching to her repertoire. She was equally good at floral arranging not only in vases but on the grounds of St. Joseph's convent in Columbus.
Her early experiences in the business world and her expertise in accounting and finances made Sister a natural for her ministry in the province finance offices. Evaluation after evaluation noted her great accuracy in keeping the records. When a major transition to a new banking and funding systems occurred, it was Sister Mary Grace who helped design, set up, implement and correct the new procedures.
Throughout her various ministries, Sister availed herself of the studies she needed. She received her BS ED from the THE ATHENAEUM in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1953 and her MA from Catholic University, D.C. in 1968. Sister also received training in various computer and other business studies at Franklin University in Dayton Ohio.
Sister Mary Grace was a cancer survivor for many years defying all the odds. She did so bravely and seemed to know how to accept her limitations with such graciousness. She was definitely an inspiration to all. It might be safe to say that a sabbatical in the Credo program at Gonzaga University in 1986 gave her the spiritual insights which enabled her to carry on.
The last entry on Sister Mary Graces’ cross –stitch creation for her Golden Jubilee contains two quotations. They may be her way of letting us know now what her relationship with God referred to in her own words could be summed up today.
My soul magnifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savoir. LK 1:47
Praise be to the God and father
of our Lord Jesus Christ
who has blessed me
in the heavenly realms
with every spiritual blessing in Christ. EPH 1:3
Sister Louanna Orth, SNDdeN
March 10, 2012