Sister Lucille Witkewiz, MM

Born: October 13, 1931
Entered: February 1, 1951
Died: November 14, 2012

We are gathered today to remember our Sister Lucille Witkewiz who died quietly early in the morning of November 14, 2012. It was a month after her 81st birthday and in her 61st year as a Maryknoll Sister.

Mary Louise Witkewiz was born on October 13, 1931 to Louis and Lucille (LeMarbe) Witkewiz in Chicago, IL.  Mary Louise attended St. Peter and Paul High School in Chicago and graduated in 1949.  She wrote the following about a high school experience.   “When I was in high school, I heard a missionary priest talk about the missions.  That’s when I decided what I would like to do with my life – – be a missionary.  After being told I would need to finish high school and work for a couple of years, I trusted in God and did as suggested.  If that was what I needed to do, with the help of God, I would do it.  The words of the song Trust in the Lord have become a big part of my life – – ‘my theme song’!  It is still today, everyday.  “After working for two years with the Illinois Central Railroad, she entered the Maryknoll Sisters Novitiate at Valley Park, MO, from St. Ailbe Parish, Chicago, on February 1, 1951.  She made her First Vows at Valley Park on Sept. 8, 1953 and her Final Vows at the Maryknoll Sisters’ Center, Maryknoll, NY on September 8, 1959.

Sister Lucille attended Maryknoll Teachers College at Maryknoll, NY, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Education. This degree was to serve her and countless others throughout her life.

Following graduation from Maryknoll Teachers College in 1960, Sister Lucille was first assigned to teach grades 3 and 4 at St. Therese’s School in Chicago Chinatown. Three years later, in 1963, she was sent to Honolulu, where, for the next seven years, she taught second grade at St. Augustine School in Waikiki. In 1970, she was sent even further into the Pacific, teaching and training educators at Assumption School on the tiny atoll of Majuro in the Marshall Islands.

With a dream of seeing the Marshallese one day take full charge of the school, Sister Lucille set out to train local residents interested in education.  Besides teaching Sister Lucille supervised girls from the outer islands living on campus.  She often told stories of her efforts to keep them busy every minute. During the summer she provided live-in opportunities for young women interested in religious life.

Over the next 28 years, Sister Lucille watched, with much satisfaction, as more and more Marshallese became educators under her steady training and guidance. By the time she left the Islands permanently in 2008, the Sisters in Majuro had managed not only to train Marshallese as teachers for an elementary school, but they also had started a high school, appointed their first Marshallese school principal, and had an active Parent Teachers Association. “Majuro is such a small place,” Sister Lucille once remarked with a sparkle in her eyes, “and so many students have passed through our school, that we are like family.”  Sister Lucille had realized her desire of seeing the Marshallese in charge of their own schools.

Although blessed with a calm and even disposition, the tensions of culture and community sometimes became a cause of frustration. At these times Sister Lucille would go to the convent kitchen and bake cookies or bread, beating all the batter by hand to work out the tension.  This eventually led to an appreciation of Lucille’s culinary skills by the Sisters living at Majuro and those engaged in outer island ministry.

From 1983-1987 Sister Lucille served as Manager of the Direct Mail Department at the Maryknoll Sisters Center.

True to her spirit of generosity Sister Lucille gave her body to science with the hope that others might benefit from her donation.

We thank Fr. Tom Marciniak, our Jesuit brother, for presiding at this Memorial celebration.  Father Tom was also a missionary in the Marshall Islands.