2015 Jubilarian – Marie Andre Walsh
Sister Marie Andre Walsh grew up in Portland, Maine, and attended public schools for 13 years. She attended Sunday school in her parish, but received her faith from her parents. She recalls seeing her father standing before the crucifix in their home every day, and he blessed each member of the family before he left for work.
Upon graduation, Sister Marie Andre attended Marygrove College. At the time, the president of Marygrove, a classmate of her father, was the only lay president of a Catholic college in the country. At Marygrove, she was impressed with the excellent teaching of the sisters and their interest in the students’ welfare. A tugging toward the community began.
“The Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways,” Sister Marie Andre notes. “I felt a very strong attraction but I did not want to be attracted.” She graduated from Marygrove before joining the community. When she came to Monroe, Sister Rosalita Kelly, who was writing the history of the community, requested that she become the French interpreter for her research on Father Louis Gillet, co-founder of the IHM congregation.
For the next 16 years, Sister Marie Andre taught French at schools throughout the area, including St. Mary Academy, Immaculata High School and Marygrove. After a two-year interim, she returned to the Academy, teaching for seven years and then serving as assistant principal for the next four.
Then she went to Texas and taught French at Maryhill College, the women’s college at St. Edward’s University. Because this was Spanish-speaking territory, she accepted the offer of a year’s sabbatical to finish a PhD in curriculum and foreign language at the University of Texas. When Maryhill College was discontinued to merge with St. Edward’s, she developed a nationally recognized curriculum to prepare Spanish-speaking teachers for bilingual elementary school children. With assistance of federal funding for 18 years, she continued preparing bilingual teachers.
When the university presented a Doctorate in Humane Letters to Cardinal Pio Taofinuu from Samoa, she was asked to go to Samoa to assist him in getting federal funds for his bilingual children in American Samoa. She observed how the cardinal had incorporated the culture into the liturgy. “It became meaningful to me that the Church is worldwide and each people has their own way expressing God and worship,” Sister Marie Andre notes.
From St. Edward’s University, she was appointed the first woman vicar for religious for the Diocese of Austin, Texas. “It was a learning process, but a very, very satisfying one,” she says.
After 18 years as vicar, Sister Marie Andre retired. Since joining the community, she has enjoyed translating the works of Father Gillet. She is most grateful for the opportunity to use the gifts she brought to the community and make many new friends. “That was all in God’s will,” she reflects. The friendships have been most important as well as the homey atmosphere Mother Ruth Hankerd installed at the Motherhouse.