IHM Sisters Joy Halpin, Dolora Neumaier and Mary Laubacher all turned 100 years old this past summer, joining Sisters Letitia O’Connell, Margaret Sullivan, Cecilia Campbell and Charlotte Walby in the exclusive Centenarian Club.
Sister Joy (Marie Michael) was born June 12, 1917, in Marine City, Mich. She was received into the IHM community in 1940 and professed final vows in 1945. She spent 19 years teaching first- and second-graders in the Detroit area and in Battle Creek, Mich. She considers these the most important grades to teach: “It’s when the students need to learn so much to get a good start to their educations.”
Sister Joy earned her master’s degree in biology, and after teaching in Michigan grade schools, she made the switch to teaching high school biology, first at Lorain Catholic (Lorain, Ohio) and then at St. Mary Academy. She spent a number of years teaching religious education in Michigan and North Dakota; engaged in parish ministry at St. Stephen’s Mission in Wyoming; taught adult education and GED classes in Texas and Montana and served as a driver for other IHM Sisters back in Michigan.
Sister Dolora was born June 29, 1917 in Holloway, Mich. She was received into the IHM community in 1936 and made her final vows in 1941. After teaching first grade in Detroit for five years, she spent 17 years at Marygrove College; she was instrumental in setting up the Marygrove Preschool and served as the supervising teacher. During her time at Marygrove, she also completed her master’s degree from Wayne State University. After Marygrove, Sister Dolora taught and served in administration in schools in the Detroit area. In 1971, she began ministering in pastoral care and spent 18 years as a pastoral assistant in Ann Arbor. Much of her ministry involved caring for older adults and sick parishioners. When she retired in 1992, she was determined to stay active. “Retirement brought me lots of joy,” she says. “I was free to search out opportunities to volunteer.”
As a volunteer Sister Dolora served as an on-call chaplain; volunteered at a thrift store; served on the boards for the Washtenaw County Council on Aging (she was an emeritus member), the Diocesan Committee on Aging and the Advisory Council for Respite of Washtenaw. Her most rewarding ministry, both as a professional and as a volunteer, was working with older adults. “Older people know how companionship has enriched their lives. Being able to see that and be a part of it was such a gift for me,” she observes.
Sister Mary (Coronata) was born Aug. 15, 1917; she grew up in Canton, Ohio. She was received by the IHM Sisters in 1935 and professed final vows in 1940. For 30 years, she taught at elementary and high schools in Michigan and Illinois before ministering at Marygrove College in Detroit where she taught in the Education Department and then became chair of the department. She earned her doctorate in administration and supervision from Wayne State University.
After leaving Marygrove, Sister Mary lived with St. Joseph Sisters in Lansing and was the assistant superintendent of Catholic schools, overseeing 32 elementary schools and five high schools, and then ministered as librarian for Marian High School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., for two years.
“I was 65 years old when then-IHM President Carol Quigley asked me to be the principal of St. Mary Academy,” Sister Mary says. “I didn’t think I could, so I said ‘no.’ Sister Carol told me to pray about it and asked me the next week. I still said ‘no.’ She told me to pray some more. I remembered my vow of obedience and, when she asked the week after that, I accepted.” She later served as the congregation’s part-time education secretary, and ministered as director of the congregational library.