Sister Louise Diener, MM
Born: August 6, 1901
Entered: December 18, 1921
Died: September 15, 1999
Sister Louise Diener died peacefully on Wednesday, September 15,1999 in the Residential Care Unit at Maryknoll, NY. She was 98 years of age and had been a Maryknoll Sister for 77 years. Sister was our oldest living member by entrance though not by age.
Louise Bertha Diener was born in New York City on August 6,1901 to Theodore Diener and Mary Agatha Blatz Diener. She had five brothers and one sister. The family moved to New Jersey where Louise attended St. Michael’s Elementary School in Elizabeth, NJ. She began high school at the Batlin Public High School. The family moved to California while Louise was in high school. She completed her high school education at Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles from which she graduated in 1919. Louise learned about the newly established Maryknoll Sisters Congregation through reading The Field Afar magazine. She entered Maryknoll on December 18, 1921 at Maryknoll. At Reception, she received the religious name of Sister Mary Edward. She made her First Profession of Vows on April 19, 1924 at Maryknoll and her Final Profession of Vows on the same date in 1927 in Los Angeles.
Sister Louise was assigned to Los Angeles in 1924 where she worked in the Maryknoll Children’s Home caring for the children who were orphans. From 1927-1930 she taught first grade at the school for Japanese children in Los Angeles. In June 1930 Sister Louise was one of five pioneer Maryknoll Sisters who arrived at Monrovia. She had been appointed Superior and Administrator of the new mission at Monrovia. From the beginning of their work with the Japanese people of Los Angeles the Sisters had recognized the need for a sanatorium where those with tuberculosis could recuperate. For over ten years the search for a good location for such work went on. Finally in 1930 the search ended when negotiations were entered into with the previous owner of the sanatorium. Sister Louise wrote of the fulfillment of the hopes and dreams of Maryknollers working with the Japanese people of Los Angeles: “Nestling in a cozy nook at the base of the Sierra Madre Range of mountains lies the Maryknoll Sisters latest venture for souls – The Monrovia Sanatorium for persons suffering from tuberculosis. Many a person smiles back on from their eleventh hour place in heaven and wishes it well. Many people restored to health here bless its peaceful hospitality and healing atmosphere.”
Sister Louise recalled that one of their first activities at Monrovia was to set up a small upstairs room as a chapel. Her father, Mr. Edward Diener, and her brother Joseph helped to furnish the chapel and even constructed a beautiful altar for the new chapel. The new mission flourished under Sister Louise’s capable administration and the healing ministry touched the lives of many persons with tuberculosis who were restored to health at Monrovia. In 1930 at the time of purchase of the Monrovia property, Mother Mary Joseph shared her vision of its future: “You know that we are all young now but some day we will need a place for our Sisters to spend the years of their retirement. This location would surely be ideal for that purpose…”
It was on January 6, 1937 that the call came to Monrovia that Sister Louise was to be a member of yet another pioneer group of Maryknoll Sisters. Sister Louise was assigned to Japan with four other Maryknoll Sisters who formed the group who would begin the new mission in Japan. In Japan, Sr. Louise worked with women. She began a cooking school which taught meal preparation to young women preparing for marriage, mothers of families and housekeepers for priests.
In 1940 Sr. Louise was assigned to Hawaii where she would spend the next 18 years. She taught primary school at St. Anthony School for five years and then went to St. Ann’s where she worked as housekeeper. She also spent several years teaching religion at a home for girls. In 1958 she was assigned to Bethany as housekeeper and over the next ten years Maryknoll at Mountain View, Topsfield, and San Francisco received Sister’s gracious help.
Sr. Louise returned to Monrovia in 1968 nearly 30 years after she left Monrovia for Japan. She found a vastly changed Monrovia as the patients with tuberculosis were no longer there. Treatment of tuberculosis with multiple drugs had ended the need for hospitals like Monrovia. A new convent had been built for the Sisters and some of her companions from the early days of Monrovia had returned in their retirement years as did Sr. Louise. She described her role at Monrovia in these later years: “I want to continue to weave the tapestry I began at Monrovia so many years ago according to God’s designs. I am in charge of the laundry here and a member of the House Advisory Board.” Sr. Louise was also known as the “handywoman” around Monrovia. She fixed what she could and made the necessary contracts when workmen had to be called in. She was active in the local community participating in the Monrovia Senior Citizens group, Church Women United and the League of Women Voters. She felt that in returning to Monrovia after so many years that her life had come full circle. In 1978, while at Monrovia, she was asked to write the history of Maryknoll Sisters mission presence in Monrovia during those crucial early years. Between 1978-1984 she worked toward this goal with great dedication. The finished work is a 100 page manuscript which is preserved in the Maryknoll Archives today.
After nearly twenty years at Monrovia, Sr. Louise returned to Maryknoll in 1987 for health reasons. While in Residential Care, she remained interested in current events, Congregational issues and in everyone she had known during her long life in mission. She remained in close contact with her family and many friends. She was committed to her prayer ministry for the Kenya Region, maintaining a regular correspondence with the Sisters and proudly displaying a banner from Kenya on the wall in her room. On the occasion of her 75th jubilee in 1996 she received many greetings from Sisters and friends around the world. One such greeting related yet another pioneering step in Sister Louise’s long life: “I remember that you initiated the 70th anniversary celebration five years ago by writing to Sister Claudette asking why we did not celebrate 70 years. You began a new tradition and now you are up to 75 years. Congratulations – you are a marvel!”
We offer our deepest sympathy to Sister Louise’s family who are unable to be with us today as well as Sister’s many nieces, nephews and friends. We welcome our Maryknoll brother, Father Francis Diffley, who will preside at this Eucharistic liturgy of Christian Burial as we lovingly remember and give thanks for the life of our Sister Louise.