Sister Agnes Teresa Mary Schnettler, MM
Born: June 30, 1901
Entered: October 29, 1926
Died: December 8, 1992
Today we gather to celebrate the life of our Sister Agnes Teresa Mary Schnettler, called by our loving God to her home in heaven on the afternoon of December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Sister Agnes Teresa Mary had a great devotion to our Blessed Mother and so it is most fitting that she should enter eternal life on this special feast of Mary.
Agnes Teresa Mary Schnettler was born on June 30, 1901 in Saginaw, Michigan to Richard and Mary Herrling Schnettler. She attended Sacred Heart Grade School and graduated from St. Mary’s High School in 1918. In her class yearbook, she was listed as “The Class Historian”, with the description saying of her, “Blessed are the hard workers for they shall inherit the marks.” Prophetic words that continued to describe her throughout her life.
After several years of working as a bookkeeper in her father’s business, Agnes Teresa entered Maryknoll on October 29, 1926. She had come to know Maryknoll through reading mission literature and when asked, her reason for entering, she said simply: “To serve God more perfectly; to save the souls of others and my own soul”. These goals were ever present as her life in Maryknoll developed over the years.
At Reception, Agnes Teresa received the name of Sister Mary Siena and the following year, she began studies at Mt. St. Vincent’s College in New York City. She graduated in 1932 with a Bachelor’s degree, majoring in English. This same year, she made her Final Vows and was missioned to the Philippines.
Sister Siena’s mission life began in the Malabon Normal School in Malabon, Rizal Province. She was a good teacher and the students learned quickly under her tutelage. Although always a bit serious, she did enjoy the teasing and jokes of the students.
The lives of all the Filipino people were disrupted by war in 1941 and in 1942 Sister was interned along with 47 other Maryknoll Sisters in Los Baños Concentration Camp. These were years of suffering and deprivation.
Soon after liberation from Camp in 1946, Sister Siena was back at work teaching at Maryknoll High School in Manila. When they were looking for an appropriate site for the new school, Sister wrote to Mother Mary Columba about buying a certain piece of property. She pleaded for an affirmative answer saying, “Our entire aim and endeavor is to get to Heaven and to take others there. This property seems to be a means, an instrument, a place on this earth, where we can fashion souls for the heavenly home.” However, before the final location of Maryknoll College was chosen, the School was to move many times. Sister Siena was the school librarian and this meant much packing and unpacking of books. But she always knew exactly where every book was to be found!
In 1950, she began teaching in the Religion Department of Maryknoll College, with Christian Civilization being one of her favorite courses. As students came back to the College to visit, they would always remember how she transmitted to them her love for the Word of God, stressing that the Bible always be cared for in a special way and given a place of honor in their homes. This special respect for the Bible continued to be part of their lives, years after finishing their studies.
Through her classes, Sister Siena also transmitted great sincerity and integrity in all she did. At times the students would tease about her exactness to all things and then a smile or hearty laugh would appear and the students would laugh with her. During this time when she was teaching at Maryknoll College, she attended summer classes at the School of Theology in Baguio City and after four summers of faithful study, she earned a Diploma of Teacher of Sacred Sciences, with honors, in 1966. These courses were a joy to her and most helpful in her teaching.
In 1967, Sister asked to return to her baptismal name of Agnes Teresa with the addition of Mary, her Confirmation name. It may have been hard for everyone to always remember one or the other of the three names, but no conversation was complete without all three!
Sister Agnes Teresa Mary came back to the Center and was unable to return to the Philippines. She became part of the Senior Unit and worked part-time at the Reception Desk for three years. In 1976, she celebrated her Golden Jubilee, with joy, but quietly. She asked the Sisters in Communication Office not to give it big publicity in her home newspapers. During these times when we were experiencing many changes and later, when we were writing the new Constitutions, Sister often wrote her ideas and suggestions regarding Religious Life to the Central Governing Board. Always an exact scholar, she would explain her ideas with quotes from Canon Law and the writings of the Holy Father. She was a great defender of the Faith and was eager that Maryknoll should be faithful to the traditions of our Church.
Due to declining health, Sister Agnes Teresa Mary went to the Nursing Home in 1981. These were years of physical suffering and mental anguish. Yet at the same time, her alert mind and observant manner were much appreciated as she was of assistance to the other Sisters. Life was never so difficult that she could not share time with her friends and this was especially true in the many hours of happy companionship she spent with Sister Jeanne Therese Oshrin.
Sister is survived by the wife of her brother,a nephew, and a number of cousins. However, none of her relatives were able to come, but we know they are with us in spirit as we rejoice with Sister Agnes Teresa Mary in this celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy of the Resurrection. We welcome Father Jerry McCrane, M.M. as our Celebrant.