Sister Teresa Hollfelder, MM
Born: December 3, 1903
Entered: November 10, 1924
Died: April 20, 2002
Today, as we gather to worship and celebrate, our hearts are filled with gratitude to God for the gift of Sister Teresa Hollfelder’s life and, in a very special way, for the fullness of life she now enjoys. On Saturday, April 20, 2002, Sister Teresa died quietly and peacefully in the Residential Care Unit at Maryknoll, New York, where she had been a patient since 1989.
Teresa Beatrice Hollfelder was born December 3, 1903 in New York City, one of eight children – seven daughters and one son – to Martin and Marie Bienlein Hollfelder. The family later moved to South River, New Jersey where Teresa received her early education at St. Mary’s School, attended New Brunswick Business and Commercial School, and worked as a bookkeeper and stenographer in the offices of the Municipal Light and Water Department.
While working at the Municipal Light and Water Department, Teresa became interested in Maryknoll and religious life through reading the Maryknoll magazine, “The Field Afar”. At that time, the Congregation was officially recognized for only four years but Teresa knew that Maryknoll’s mission was something to which she could give her heart. She applied for admission and entered at Maryknoll, New York on November 10, 1924. For over seventy-seven years she has been one of our living links to the early days of Maryknoll as she shared her life, gifts and talents with the peoples of China, Korea, in various places throughout the United States and through her chosen prayer ministry for our Sisters and the people of Japan.
At Reception, Teresa received the religious name of Sister Mary Claudia. She made her First Profession of Vows at Maryknoll, New York on April 30, 1927 and her Final Profession on the same date three years later. After First Profession she studied at Pius X School of Liturgical Music in New York City and received a Certificate in Liturgical Music.
In 1930, Sister Teresa was assigned to Yeungkong, South China. A week after her arrival in Yeungkong, she began studying the Chinese language dialect of Cantonese, under the tutelage of the Mandarin’s daughter. She visited the children at the Home for the Blind and the elderly at the Old Folks’ Home to practice her language skills and later became involved in catechetical work and home visiting.
In 1932 Sister was assigned to Gishu, Korea where she immediately became involved in catechetical work, home visiting, organizing Sodalities, and directing the choir. After five years in Gishu, she divided her days moving between Pyeong Yang and Gishu, serving as bookkeeper and organist, as well as continuing her pastoral ministry work. At the outbreak of World War II, she was repatriated to the United States.
Upon her arrival in the United States, Sister Teresa ministered to the Japanese people in Los Angeles, California before returning to Maryknoll, New York in 1941. For two years she generously responded to the many needs and requests of multiple support services here at the Center before answering the call to share her bookkeeping and secretarial skills for the following three years at the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers Junior Seminary in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. In 1945, Sister Teresa returned to California where she taught primary school children in Los Altos and Los Angeles and continued to share her secretarial and bookkeeping skills wherever needed for the following eight years.
In 1953, Sister came to the Center to pursue her studies at Maryknoll Teachers College and received a Bachelor of Education degree in 1955. After graduation, she returned to California and spent the following nine years as a primary school teacher in Los Angeles. In 1964 she was assigned to Topsfield, Massachusetts where she studied Religious Education and, in 1971, returned to the Center to work in the Mission Research Library and the Maryknoll Sisters Library.
At the age of 73, Sister Teresa “retired” at the Maryknoll Sisters retirement home in Monrovia, California. Her seven years there could best be summed up in the words of appreciation given her by the Monrovia community upon her departure. They wrote:
“The Center’s gain is surely Monrovia’s loss. Sister Teresa is one who really gives of herself. Besides regular work in the pantry, care of a coffee shop and charges, she never says no to a request for help. And there are so many requests to anyone who is willing. In fact, Sister Teresa seldom had time to really devote herself to the sewing which she had so looked forward to doing when she came to Monrovia.”
Sister’s so-called “retirement years” continued here at the Center as she did part-time sewing for two years before failing health necessitated admission to the Residential Care Unit in 1989.
The words of today’s Gospel Reading: “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be” surely resonated in the life of Sister Teresa throughout her many years as a Maryknoll Sister.
Sister Teresa served and followed her God wherever she was asked to go. At the time of her Golden Jubilee she wrote: “I’ve always been extremely happy in my mission work, and would like to do it all over again had I a choice.” No wonder she was described as “a very friendly person, bright and capable, a person who enjoys reading and conversation and someone who had a good sense of humor.”
We welcome and offer our deepest sympathy to Sister Teresa’s family and friends. We welcome our Maryknoll brother, Father George Ratermann, who will preside at this Eucharistic Liturgy of Christian Burial as we lovingly remember and give thanks for the life of our Sister Teresa Hollfelder.