Sister Jeanette DeBrosse (formerly Mary Urban)

Sister Jeanette DeBrosse (formerly Mary Urban)

March 15, 1928 - May 24, 2017

In peace I will lie down and fall asleep, for you alone, Lord, make me secure. (Psalm 4:9)

Russia, Shelby County, Ohio is a small farming community north of Dayton that was originally settled by devotedly Catholic French-speaking immigrants from Alsace-Lorraine. Among them were the ancestors of Sister Jeanette. Farming was starting to become automated by the time Jeanette’s parents reached adulthood, and manufacturing in cities offered a good living. Urban and Laura DeBrosse joined many of their peers moving to the city, where Urban supported his wife and children by working in Dayton factories.

Jeanette Bertha DeBrosse was born in Dayton and raised in Holy Family Parish where the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur were her teachers throughout grade school. As soon as she was old enough, Jeanette took afterschool and summer jobs clerking in a department store and waitressing to help support her family. She went on to Julienne High School, which was also staffed by the Sisters of Notre Dame, and when Jeanette expressed an interest in religious life during her freshman year, the Sisters asked if she would be interested in going to the Candidacy in Columbus. There, she would live with the Sisters, other young women discerning their call and continue her secondary education at St. Joseph’s Academy. Jeanette was very interested and she entered the Candidacy in September of 1943. In the summers she returned to her family in Dayton and summer jobs.

Her desire to follow Christ as a religious continued to deepen, and by November 1945 Jeanette had decided to enter the Postulate in Reading, Ohio. 50 years later she would remember making the journey from Dayton to Mount Notre Dame on a cold, wintery day in February. Her father, driving the family car, approached the circular convent drive in Reading. He made a complete turn through the property and returned to the bottom of the hill, suggesting he would drive onto the convent property a second time, just to be certain his daughter had really made up her mind. “I think Dad was teasing,” Jeanette recalled today, “but he knew it was a serious step I was taking and how hard it was going to be. I was only 17, and he was a concerned parent.” Jeanette may have found it hard, but she continued to grow in her sense of vocation. She asked to move on to Novitiate, and when asked why she wanted to continue her formation as a Sister of Notre Dame she wrote, “… because I had been taught by these Sisters from the beginning of my school life, because Notre Dame combines the contemplative and active life, and because of its work in the education of youth.” She was accepted into the Novitiate and given the name Sister Mary Urban.

Sister Mary Urban’s first ministry was teaching 4th Grade at a parish school in Calumet City, Illinois. She would teach 3rd-8th grade at schools in Chicago, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati before being appointed Director of Postulants in 1961. In that role, Sister Mary Urban was responsible for the over-all program at the Postulate and taught the Spiritual Theology, Theology of Religious Life, and the Theological Implications of Vatican II segments of the program. She also served as a part-time Religion teacher at Mount Notre Dame High School for four years of her seven-year term as Director of Postulants.

By 1968, Sister Jeanette had taken the option of reverting to her baptismal name and accepted a mission to Notre Dame High School in Chicago. There she served as chairperson of Religion Department and Religion teacher. She created and organized a new curriculum in religious education that incorporated electives, organized and initiated a parent education program in an informal “coffee hour” setting and coordinated an adult religious education discussion group in the neighboring parish. Jeanette returned to Mount Notre Dame High School in 1971 where she taught Religion and English and served as English Department Chair. At MND she also served as adviser for the creative writing section of the school newspaper and moderated the Parents Club.

After 30 years of teaching, Jeanette was offered a year-long sabbatical as a participant in the Active Spirituality Program. At the end of that year she looked for a ministry that combined her administrative and organization skills with the desire to work with people one-to-one and she was missioned to serve as Administrative Assistant to the Ministers of Service Program for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. The program had been organized to provide laypersons, who felt the desire to serve their parish-communities more formally, with training and ongoing support. They worked as equal partners on their parish staffs and contributed a unique dimension to the development of their parish-communities. Jeanette served the program for eight years, and then served in parish ministry for a short time before accepting a position with the Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library.

For nine years Jeanette worked as a library assistant, receiving excellent evaluations and loving the opportunities the job provided her to work with people one-to-one with research requests. When she retired from the Library she moved to Dayton and worked with other Sisters at the University of Dayton site of the Alliance for Work-Based Education. In that program she tutored adults who wanted to earn their GED and/or improve their computer skills. When Jeanette joined the Mount Notre Dame Health Center community in 2004 she served as an informal patient visitor to Sisters living in Cuvilly, a proofreader for Province Offices, a Lector and Cantor and an occasional reader for sight impaired Sisters in the community.

From early in her life Jeanette was an excellent student who loved to learn. Over the years she took graduate courses in English, Religion and computer technology and participated in a Clinical Pastoral Education program, counseling workshops, anti-racism workshops, workshops on the Black Catholic Bishops’ Pastoral and the Preferential Option for the Black Community. Jeanette also participated in seminars offered through the University of Dayton’s Learning in Retirement program.

Jeanette never learned how to drive and instead became an expert at navigating the bus systems in cities where she lived. Not driving, however, did not mean she didn’t like to travel! She participated in the 1976 Mini-Arc program in Rome, which included a pilgrimage to Notre Dame Heritage sites in France and Belgium; she made a side-trip to England that summer as well. Jeanette also attended Notre Dame Education Conferences around the United States and enjoyed a Golden Jubilee trip to Hawaii, a fishing trip to Minnesota, retreats in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, a visit to New Orleans and other untold destinations that are not recorded.

In community Jeanette was a good listener who valued friendships, faith-sharing and companionable conversation with her Sisters. Jeanette could be a bit of a perfectionist, but never expected more from others than she expected of herself. She loved books, art films, museums, the symphony, walking, listening to good music, the opera and good dramas on TV. She was fun loving and the epitome of a lady. Her special interests included creative writing and interpretive dancing, but nowhere did she list sports! Jeannette was happiest when surrounded by beauty and God touched her deeply through the beauty of creation.

Jeanette was devoted to her family and enjoyed visiting with them in person, through letters or by phone. She appreciated the opportunities living in Dayton gave her to spend time with her siblings, join family holiday celebrations, get to know her beloved nieces and nephews as adults, and get to know their children.

At one point Jeanette wrote, “I understand religious life to be a life of loving sacrifice, a life of deep peace and joy.” Now, as her Sisters, family and friends give thanks for the gift of God’s goodness that Jeanette’s life has been to each of us, we paraphrase Isaiah 55:12 and celebrate with her God’s call to joyfully go forth from this life to the infinite peace of eternity with God. May the mountains and hills break out in song before her, all the trees of the field clapping their hands to dance her on her way.

Bio Data
Born March 15, 1928 in Dayton, OH
Parents: Urban DeBrosse (born in Russia, Ohio) and Laura Groff (born in Russia, Ohio)
Siblings: Helen DeBrosse Lavielle, Ruth DeBrosse Gayle, Lucille DeBrosse Fantz, Carl DeBrosse, Rita DeBrosse Ostiek, Adele DeBrosse Cooley, Evelyn DeBrosse August

Baptized March 18, 1928 at St. Joseph Church, Dayton, Ohio
Confirmed March 27, 1938 at Holy Family Church, Dayton, Ohio

Entered February 2, 1946 at Mt. Notre Dame
First Profession: January 29, 1949
Final Profession: August 13, 1954

Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Dayton, Dayton Ohio, 1961
Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Theology from Manhattanville College, Purchase, New York, 1967

Assignments Included:
1948-1949 St. Victor School, Calumet City, Illinois
1949-1950 St. Robert Bellarmine School, Chicago, Illinois
1950-1952 St. Christopher School, Columbus, Ohio
1952-1956 Summit Country Day School, Cincinnati, Ohio
1956-1961 Holy Angels School, Dayton, Ohio
1961-1968 Director of Postulants, Mt. Notre Dame Convent, Reading, Ohio
1964-1967 Mt. Notre Dame High School, Reading Ohio
1968-1971 Notre Dame High School, Chicago, Illinois
1971-1979 Mt. Notre Dame High School, Reading, Ohio
1979-1980 Sabbatical: Active Spirituality Program, Mt. St. Joseph College, Mt. St. Joseph, Ohio
1980-1988 Administrative Assistant, Ministers of Service Program, Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio
1988-1989 Pastoral Associate, St. Andrew Parish, Cincinnati, Ohio
1989-1997 Library Assistant, Cincinnati/Hamilton County Public Library, Cincinnati, Ohio
1997-2004 Tutor, Alliance for Work-Based Education, University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio
2004-Present: Community Service, Mt. Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio

Died on May 24, 2017 at Mt. Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio

Sr. Kim Dalgarn SNDdeN
May 25, 2017