2014 Jubilarian – Cecilia (Mary Dalene) Schmidt
Sister Cecilia Schmidt was born in Wisconsin, and her family moved to Michigan when she was three months old. They eventually lived on the property of the Franciscan-run Duns Scotus College in Southfield.
She first thought about religious life in second grade. “I don’t know why,” she says. “I just felt that’s what I wanted to do in my life. Having Dominican Sisters for eight years, St. Joseph Sisters for a year and IHMs for three years posed a dilemma. I chose the IHMs because of my love for Mary and the fact that IHM Sisters were stricter; I wanted to give my all to God.”
Sister Cecilia joined the IHM community a month after graduating from Girls’ Catholic Central High School.
Her first teaching assignments were in the Detroit area: St. Boniface, St. Mary, Epiphany and Christ the King. She taught grades two and three at St. Peter Claver in Mobile, Ala., for five years.
“I enjoyed teaching,” Sister Cecilia notes. “The experience in Mobile was one I will never forget. Those were segregation days, and teaching at St. Peter Claver with the black community opened my eyes to the struggles of the poor and the pain of racism and prejudice.”
She returned to Michigan to teach, first at Holy Name in Birmingham, then St. Agnes (Detroit) and back to Holy Name. She became principal at St. Columban in Birmingham and then taught at St. Anne in Warren.
In 1974, Sister Cecilia began ministering at the Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, S.D., teaching religion in grades five through eight. She spent five years in pastoral ministry at St. Patrick Parish in Anadarko, Okla., with the Caddo Indians before taking a year of renewal and then ministering as a pastoral assistant at Santa Rita Parish in Carrizozo, N.M.
After a year at Santa Rita, “I talked to my superior and was told about some opportunities in Minnesota. My heart said, ‘Who wants to go to Minnesota?’ but that’s where I ended up.” Her next ministry – one that lasted 23 years – was as pastoral assistant at St. Joseph Parish in Chisholm, Minn.
They were busy years. Sister Cecilia and a friend started a Befriender Ministry Program and trained people to listen with their heart to those in need. She performed wake and funeral services, coordinated the RCIA programs and visited hospital and nursing homes and shut-ins. “I was busy every day,” she says. A lot of times there wasn’t a lot on my calendar, but before you knew it, I was all over the place. But I loved it. That’s probably why it took me so long to retire.”
Following her retirement, she volunteered in Buhl and Chisholm, Minn., before returning to the IHM Motherhouse.
“For however long God keeps me on this Earth, I will be eternally grateful for my religious vocation,” she reflects. “I am blessed and proud to have been an IHM. God is very much alive in my heart, and my hands are still open to God’s will.”