Sister Herman Joseph Stitz, MM
Born: December 10, 1901
Entered: December 6, 1930
Died: August 22, 1989
This morning, we gather here in worship and our hearts are again filled with awe and gratitude for God’s precious gift of life to each one of us — and, in a very special way, for the fullness of Life that our Sister M. Herman Joseph Stitz now enjoys in heaven. Sister returned to her Maker around 8:30 P.M. on August 22, 1989, Feast of the Queenship of Mary. The Vespers Antiphon that day seems particularly appropriate for Sister, “Blessed are you, Mary, because you believed that the Lord’s words to you would be fulfilled.” Sister Herman Joseph’s faith in God’s promise permeated her entire life.
Sister Herman Joseph was born on December 10, 1901 at Rozellville, Wisconsin. At baptism she was named Mary Dorchen. She was one of seven daughters born to Joseph and Dorothy Wolf Stitz, both devout Catholics who emigrated to the U.S. from Germany. Four of their daughters became Religious. Sister Herman Joseph attributed her initial interest in mission to the time when, as children, their mother used to read to them articles from a German mission magazine. And, whether true or not, Sister Herman Joseph jokingly concluded this story – told many times – that their mother also said, “You girls are always fighting with each other, so you better enter different convents” and so they did! Her eldest sister, was a Franciscan Sister of Missouri; another entered the Monastery of the Precious Blood in Portland, Oregon; and another joined the Sisters of Social Service in California.
Their father died in 1916 and Sister Herman Joseph helped her mother in supporting and educating the younger members of the family, thus postponing her desire to become a missionary Sister. She was 24 years old when she graduated from High School at St. Mary’ s Academy, Portland, Oregon. She completed two years of Junior College at St. Mary’s in 1928. While in College she heard a Maryknoll priest speak which re-kindled her interest in mission.
Sister Herman Joseph entered Maryknoll on December 6, 1930 and made her First Profession of vows on June 24, 1933. She was already in Shanghai when she pronounced her Final Vows three years later.
As preparation for her work in mission, Sister Herman Joseph took courses in Bacteriology and Pathology at New York Post Graduate Medical School and Hospital before departing for Korea in 1934. She was in Gishu studying the language when she was asked to go to Shanghai, one of the eight Maryknoll Sisters who cared for women patients at Mercy Hospital, the first facility for the mentally ill poor in China. Sister Herman Joseph served there in 1935 to 1938. Sister had such vivid memories of those years that when interviewed for the April 1988 issue of “Revista Magazine” she was able to clearly recall how after the Japanese Army invaded Shanghai in 1937, refugees flooded into the hospital compound. She was in charge of the kitchen that fed as many as 3,000 persons. There was a scarcity of food, but one day she was able to obtain a boat-full of rice from a ship forced to return to port because of gunfire on the Yangtze River.
Sister Herman Joseph returned to Korea in 1938 and continued her language study and later worked in the dispensary in Shingishu. When World War II broke out she was among the Sisters interned in Korea. In 1942 she was repatriated to the U.S. She remained in the States for five years, working in the Motherhouse Infirmary and studying at Manhattanville College where she obtained her B.S. in Chemistry in 1946. The following year she was assigned to the Philippines to be Laboratory Technician at the Hospital for sugar cane plantation workers at Manapla, Negros Occidental.
When the Maryknoll Sisters were permitted to return to Korea in 1951, Sister Herman Joseph went back to help in the Clinic in Pusan. Besides laboratory work, she assisted in the relief services of the Clinic, dispensing food and clothes, caring for the children and arranging housing for war widows. For her efforts in laboratory research, Sister Herman Joseph was granted the Achievement Award for 1953 by the American Society of Medical Technologists.
The Sisters who lived with her in Korea remember her most for her love of the children. She let them play in the Laboratory, after work hours, with an old microscope, showing them the marvels to be seen in a drop of water, or the way a hair is made up. With her natural flair for music, song and fun, she also organized the children to present plays complete with authentic handmade costumes, for the entertainment of the people in the area.
Sister Herman Joseph returned to the U.S. in 1960 and was assigned to Monrovia, California. She helped in our Hospital and Sanatorium there until it was sold in 1968. Thereafter, Sister worked part-time in outside laboratories and devoted the other time working in the garden. She took pride in the beauty of the landscape and a bountiful harvest of vegetables and fruits for all to share.
Although a very hard worker, Sister had the gift to lighten the hearts and spin of her community members for she was a good story—teller and had a wonderful sense of humor. Writing to our Treasury Department in 1977 about her Social Security benefits she remarked, “You are very smart to understand all this government business; so glad I deal in bacteria, blood and such.”
In July, 1986, her doctors in California recommended that Sister Herman Joseph be transferred to our Maryknoll Nursing Home. During these past three years here, Sister remained cheerful and always had a witty remark or joke for the nurses and staff. Her pleasant disposition endeared her to everyone.
We extend our deep sympathy to Sister Herman Joseph’s sisters as well as to all her other family members and friends. We welcome Father Edward Manning, M. M., who will celebrate with us this Eucharistic Liturgy of remembrance and thanksgiving.