Sister Alma Grollig SNDdeN (formerly Jeanne Therese)
October 5, 1932 – October 20, 2019
Alma Mary Grollig grew up dealing with the question, “Are you going to be just like them?” Who were the “them” she was expected to be like? The members of religious orders who were in her family. Alma had an aunt who was a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur and an uncle who was a Jesuit. Both of her brothers had also joined the Jesuits by the time she made her first communion. Alma quickly became very determined to just be herself. If God wanted her to be a religious, she would need to be convinced.
Religion was an integral part of Alma’s childhood. She and her family lived in the Fairview area of Cincinnati, but they were part of St. John the Baptist parish in Over-the-Rhine. That was the parish Mr. Grollig had grown up in. Besides the normal practices that were part of catholic culture at the time, Alma’s father was involved in the Passion Play presented each year by the parish. For many years Mr. Grollig played the role of Christ while Mrs. Grollig cooked for the ensemble. Mr. Grollig discouraged Alma from getting involved with the play, but through her parents’ involvement with it, she was naturally immersed in the story of the Paschal Mystery so central to her faith.
When it came time to start school, Alma was enrolled at the same school her brothers had attended: St. Ursula Academy. While she valued her experience with the Ursulines, she choose to complete her education at Mt. Notre Dame where the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur had not taught her brothers. Alma excelled at her studies. She also made life-long friends among her classmates. Alma’s service to the broader community during these years included helping with the Junior Campfire Girls at St. Xavier Parish and with raising funds for many needs in the post-World War II era. Her spirituality continued to deepen as she wrestled with the question of a vocation to religious life. Her English teacher became a valued advisor who helped Alma sort out where God was calling her – regardless of paths other family members had taken.
By her senior year Alma was certain of her vocation to religious life, and her parents supported her choice. When she was awarded a one year college scholarship, she decided it would be a waste not to use it. After that year of college, Alma returned to Mt. Notre Dame to enter the community. Alma was given the name Sister Jeanne Thérèse which she was known by until she returned to her baptismal name in 1969.
Alma spent eight years teaching 3rd through 8th grades in various parish schools in the Cincinnati area and then was missioned to Julienne High School in Dayton to try her hand with high school students. She became an excellent English teacher. Her creativity poured out in bulletin boards and methods to inspire her students to improve their reading and writing skills. Alma taught journalism classes and oversaw the production of many a yearbook and school newspaper at the high schools where she served. Like her own high school English teacher, Alma became a valued advisor to many and, to some, a life-time friend. Endings and beginning became her specialty as she served at Badin High School the first four years of its existence, Julienne the last three years of its existence, and Chaminade-Julienne the first four years of its existence. Alma brought tremendous energy to these endings and beginnings, but by the spring of 1977 she felt drained of energy and that her work in the classroom had lost much of its creative touch.
She asked for permission to spend a year cooking at a retreat center. Alma wrote in her request: “A year spent in this way would enable me to participate in an apostolic service that is meaningful to me. At the same time, it would provide the opportunity for me to synthesize and evaluate my spiritual and professional experiences of recent years.”
The year turned into four years of service that Alma found very life-giving. Cooking was something she enjoyed. It allowed her time for the thinking and prayer necessary to refresh her soul and regain her energy and creativity. In 1981, Alma returned to teaching and was missioned to work individually with unwed mothers furthering their education as they awaited the birth of their children. Alma wrote, “St. Julie would love this ministry. Her compassionate heart would reach out to our young women to embrace them with great tenderness. And that is why I am here. This ministry speaks to me of what we as SND are about: providing education, serving the poor, ministering to women, responding to a need of our times…and I love it!” As numbers in the Maternity High School decreased, Alma picked up English Classes at Mt. Notre Dame High School. During this time, Alma also oversaw the care of her parents since both of her Jesuit brothers were at a distance. It was only after her father’s death that she returned to full-time classroom teaching.
By 1992 Alma was feeling called to a ministry that would allow more direct service to those trapped in poverty. She accepted a position in food service for a short time and then was asked to take over the kitchen at Mt. Notre Dame. After serving at Mt. Notre Dame for three years, Alma was able to move back into a ministry that more directly served poor people. This time it was as co-director of the Cincinnati Notre Dame Mission Volunteer AmeriCorps site where she oversaw volunteers serving in various inner-city ministries.
Her Sisters turned to her again when help was needed in preparation for building the new Mt. Notre Dame Health Center. Alma joined two other Sisters who packed and moved dozens of Sisters and emptied out two buildings slated for demolition. Her practical approach to problem solving, humor and patience proved infinitely valuable to getting the job done. Once demolition was underway, Alma took on the huge data entry project necessary to start the province database. When the Health Center was completed, she helped move everyone into the new building.
In 2001 Alma was assigned to the Archives Office where she served for 14 years. Initially she assisted the Archivist with the mammoth task of unpacking the recently moved archives and setting up the new museum. Once that was accomplished Alma calmly tackled all tasks assigned to her, from writing memorials about Sisters to researching requests for information to removing staples and paper clips.
Besides her “official ministries”, Alma served as a volunteer receptionist at Weight Watcher meetings for 21 years. She was also a member of The Holy Fools: a clown ministry group that donned their makeup and colorful costumes and brought laughter, joy and the gift of touch to patients of area hospitals and nursing homes. Alma also participated in the Adopt-A-Sister Program with students from Mt. Notre Dame High School. She loved journeying with the young women in her “group,” and valued staying in touch with them after graduation.
In community Alma was known as practical, helpful, sensitive, great at planning decorations, and always willing to try new experiences. She also shared her cooking skills in community, including her variety of recipes for baked cheesecakes. She served on various province committees and was an active member of the Ohio Unit Assembly. Alma loved playing cards, watching football and baseball, doing word puzzles and shopping for just the right “little something” a friend might appreciate.
It’s hard to say which Alma loved most: spending time with family and friends or spending time in prayer. Her spirituality was deeply Ignatian. During her time at the retreat center, she had the joy of making the 19th Annotation and participated in directed retreats and spiritual direction as long as she was able. Prayer carried her through whatever life tossed her way. When facing brain surgery, she didn’t worry too much about it. The whole province would be together for Assembly that day – she knew her Sisters would be praying for her. In 2011 Alma wrote, “I knew God answered my prayers, but I didn’t know how. So I no longer asked for a specific response, but for the gift of recognizing it in whatever form it might take. I found hope could be rewarded by God in many different ways. I, in turn, received the gift of peace. God did know what was best, always.”
Alma found God present in those she loved. She valued visits with her brothers, and stayed close to her cousins. Her friends included classmates, former co-workers, relatives of other SNDs, and former students who became life-long companions on the journey. Whenever opportunities for visits happened Alma enjoyed reconnecting. She kept cards people sent her in a special bag and used them in prayer. “I randomly draw a card from the bag…enjoy the presence of the sender for a while…and then pray that she/he will get a special blessing on that day. It is a joy for me to ‘Keep in touch’… and so easy.”
Towards the end of her life Alma had the opportunity to live the words of St. Ignatius, “Take, Lord, receive: all my liberty, my memory, understanding, my entire will.” Physically it was harder and harder for her to get around. Dementia made it difficult to keep nurturing connections she so valued. Now as her Sisters, family and friends celebrate her many years of making known God’s goodness, we give thanks that she is resting safe in our good God’s abundant love and grace. We sing with Alma, “Take Lord, receive, all I have and possess. You have given unto me, now I return it. Give me only your love, and your grace, that's enough for me!” Amen.
(Sucipe of St. Ignatius)
- Born October 5, 1932 in Cincinnati, Ohio
- Parents: Anthony J. Grollig (born in Cincinnati, Ohio) and Alma P. Bastian (born in Cincinnati, Ohio)
- Siblings: Anthony J. Grollig, SJ and Francis X. Grollig, SJ
- Baptized on October 16, 1932 at St. John the Baptist Church, Cincinnati, Ohio
- Confirmed on April 30, 1941 at St. Ursula Chapel, Cincinnati, Ohio
- Entered September 7, 1951 at Mt. Notre Dame
- First Profession: March 12, 1954
- Final Profession: August 13, 1959
- Bachelor of Science in Education from Our Lady of Cincinnati College, Cincinnati, Ohio 1960
- Master of Arts in Communication Arts, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana 1966
- 1954-1956 St. Xavier Parish School, Cincinnati, Ohio
- 1956-1959 St. George Parish School, Cincinnati, Ohio
- 1959-1962 St. James Parish School, Wyoming, Ohio
- 1962-1966 Julienne High School, Dayton, Ohio
- 1966-1970 Badin High School, Hamilton, Ohio
- 1970-1973 Julienne High School, Dayton, Ohio
- 1973-1977 Chaminade-Julienne High School, Dayton, Ohio
- 1977-1981 Dietary Department/Program Planner, Jesuit Retreat Center, Milford, Ohio
- 1981-1989 St. Joseph Maternity High School, Sharonville, Ohio
- 1983-1984 Mt. Notre Dame High School, Reading, Ohio
- 1989-1992 Mt. Notre Dame High School, Reading, Ohio
- 1992-1993 Head Cook, Mason Christian Village, Mason, Ohio
- 1993-1996 Dietary Department, Mt. Notre Dame Convent, Reading, Ohio
- 1996-1999 Co-Director, Cincinnati Site, Notre Dame Mission Volunteers AmeriCorps, Cincinnati, Ohio
- 1999-2000 Transition Team, Mt. Notre Dame Convent, Reading, Ohio
- 2000-2001 Data Entry, Province Offices, Mt. Notre Dame, Reading, Ohio
- 2001-2015 Archives Assistant, Ohio Unit Archives, Mt. Notre Dame, Reading, Ohio
- 2015-2019: Community Service, Mt. Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio
Prepared by Sr. Kim Dalgarn, SNDdeN