Sister Emily Hodrus, MM

Born: May 29, 1892
Entered: October 15, 1925
Died: January 8, 1991

In 1985 when Sister Emily Hodrus applied for a transfer from the Senior Region to the Center, she wrote under “Ministry Preference”, “I write 5 to 6 letters a day as my special apostolate and I pray all day long.” On January 8, 1991 Sister Emily Hodrus died at Phelps Hospital after a short illness. Sister Emily stopped “praying all day long” and had become an eternal prayer.

Emma Joanna Hodrus was born on May 29, 1892 in Scranton, Pennsylvania to William and Bertha Dudles Hodrus. She was the 5th of 9 children — 6 girls and 3 boys. Emma received her elementary education at St. Mary’s Parochial School in Scranton and graduated from Central High School of Scranton second in her class. After graduation she worked for her brother as a bookkeeper in the International Correspondence School and for several other companies for 14 years.

In 1925, Emma and her sister Bea attended a Parish Mission preached by Fr. Paul Koch, C.SS.R., the brother of our Sisters Grace and Perpetua. Emma thought that she had a call to religious life, but was not sure. She talked with Fr. Paul about this and he suggested that she visit Maryknoll, New York for two weeks to see if it might be the place for her. As she had always been very attached to her family and tended to get homesick even when going away for a few days of vacation, her brothers had a bet that their beloved Emma wouldn’t last a week. She did and she returned to Maryknoll on October 15, 1925 as a postulant. She was one of the 33 “Bluebirds” to enter that year — the first large group to enter Maryknoll. Both Fr. Koch and Mother Mary Joseph had some doubts about the advisability of Emma entering Maryknoll because she was already very old. She was thirty-three at the time!

One of her first requests to Mother Mary Joseph was that she receive the name of “Emily” at Reception as this was the name her family called her, and if she could continue being called “Emily”, her father might not find it so difficult giving his daughter to Maryknoll. Her request was granted when on April 30, 1926 she received the name of Sister Mary Emily at Reception. Two years later she made her First Vows and was in the first group of Sisters assigned to Maui. She made her Final Vows in Honolulu, April 30, 1931. She was attracted to the idea of being a teacher and spent many years working to earn her degree in Education. She studied at the Catholic University in Washington, D.C., the University of Honolulu, Seattle College and finally received her diploma from Maryknoll Teachers College in 1949. For most of the years when she was studying, she was also teaching.

Sister taught in our schools in Hawaii from 1928 to 1937. From 1939 to 1944 she worked in the Field Afar offices as a bookkeeper. In 1944 she was in the first group of Sisters assigned to teach at St. Anthony’s in the Bronx. In 1951 she went to St. Bernard’s in St. Louis and then in 1954, back to Hawaii. In 1959 she was stateside again, this time in San Juan Capistrano. 1965 brought her back to the Center and from 1968 to 1980, when she retired, she worked in our Treasury department. Sister Emily would say that her time on the west coast was one of the happiest periods in her life, because her sister Beatrice lived there and they could visit often. Until she died, Bea continued her “visits” by telephone every Saturday morning at 10:00, as most of us on the reception desk knew.

Our Sister Edith once wrote of Emily, “She has a ripping sense of humor. I have never heard her sarcastic or being funny at the expense of others.” At the time of her First Profession, Sister Marietta wrote, “She is exact in her representation of a situation and quick to give comfort to those who are hurt.” Another Sister wrote of her, “She is quick to ask for an apology and just as quick to accept an apology.” Sister’s sensitive nature found “friction” in community very difficult. There were periods in her life when she suffered much from “friction” in community. But in reading the correspondence of these times, one can see that she was very open — speaking frankly and to the point on all the issues discussed. At this time she wrote to Sister Mary Paul, “All friction and no play makes even me a dull clod!” Throughout all of her correspondence one notices a strong desire to be obedient. One of her superior’s noted that Sister, “is very eager to do what is asked of her, even if it is unpleasant, hard or unfair.”

Those of us who knew her well only in the later years of her life, remember her for her friendly smile as she moved among us saying, “I am praying for you; I am praying for you.” We remember her daily trip to the dining room, which in fact was really a pilgrimage — as she stopped at each statue on the way and said a prayer for us, as she waited to catch her breath. I suppose the most touching and inspiring was to watch her at the feet of the crucified Jesus. To watch her was to know that this was a person who knew her God intimately.

The night before she died, she kept repeating to the Sisters who were visiting her, “It’s been a good life and I am so glad I can pray for you all.” Yes, it has been a good life and we know that Maryknoll has been blessed because of the 65 years that she walked with us. When she applied to enter Maryknoll, she wrote that she wanted to come to Maryknoll, “To do some useful work for God and so gain eternal salvation.” We are sure that Sister Emily has done useful work for God and so has gained her eternal salvation. Her memory will be a source of life and inspiration for all of us, and the knowledge that she is still praying for us will be a source of strength.

We welcome our Maryknoll brother, Father Robert Reiley who is here with us as we celebrate the Eucharist in thanksgiving for the gift of life given to us through Jesus Christ and through Sister Emily.

Our prayers are with her family and friends.