Sister M. Anton Probst, MM

Born: September 16, 1908
Entered: December 8, 1930
Died: January 23, 1999

On Saturday, January 23, 1999, Sister Anton Probst died peacefully in the Residential Care Unit at Maryknoll, New York. Sister was ninety years of age and had been a Maryknoll Sister for sixty-eight years.

Roszella Probst was born September 16, 1908, to Nicholas and Mary Molitor Probst in Alton, Iowa. She had four brothers and three sisters. When Roszella was two years old, the family moved to South Dakota as homesteaders. Years later, Sr. Anton loved to tell stories about those early years of life on the prairie. She recounted: “It was hot, dry, dusty country in summer. In the nine years we were there, we had only one crop and a half. Rust, grasshoppers, drought – we had them all. My father loved trees and it seemed that we’d never have any if we didn’t give nature a helping hand. He wanted some shade trees – some maple shoots which he paid good money for. He took us six older children and gave each of us two trees for our very own. Every morning we were to draw two Karo syrup pails full of water and give our special trees a drink for the day. This lasted for years – just part of the day’s chores before and after school.”

The school that the children attended was remarkable in its own way. Sister Anton shared her memories of those early school days: “Of the fifteen pupils, six were Probsts, all of us who were old enough at the time. My father had petitioned the county to establish a school for us. My brother used to drive us all, he was ten at the time.”

When Roszella was eleven years old, the family moved to Owatonna, Minnesota. She attended St. Mary’s Academy and Owatonna High School from which she graduated in 1928.

Roszella entered Maryknoll on December 8, 1930, at Maryknoll, New York. When asked on her application for entrance how she became interested in foreign mission work, she wrote: “By my mother’s explanation of ‘thy kingdom come’ and by reading.” She received the religious name Sister Mary Anton, a name that she would retain for the rest of her life. She made her First Profession of Vows June 24, 1933, at Maryknoll. She was assigned to Hawaii in 1934 where she would spend the next five years as an elementary school teacher. She made her Final Profession of Vows June 24, 1936, in Hawaii.

In 1939, Sister Anton returned to the United States and was assigned to Seattle, Washington, where she taught elementary school at the Maryknoll Japanese-American school. She was assigned to Monrovia, California, in 1943 where she helped care for the sick at the Maryknoll Sanatorium for patients with tuberculosis. In 1945, she went to San Juan Bautista, California, where her ministry involved home visiting and religious instruction with Hispanic families.

For health reasons, Sister Anton returned to Maryknoll, New York, in 1948. Though she was not fully ambulatory for much of this time, Sister became active in working with crafts of many kinds over the years. She developed expertise in leather work, becoming particularly skilled at embossing, tooling and leather bookbinding. She wrote several articles describing her innovative techniques which were published in the journal Leather Craftsman. Sister Anton was happy to share her knowledge with Sisters on decennial during these years by offering classes in leather work. Many families and guests who came to Maryknoll during these years recall Sister Anton’s welcoming hospitality when she graciously attended them in the Maryknoll International Gift Shop.

Sister Anton went to Bethany as a patient in 1958 because of continued health problems. She continued her work in crafts while at Bethany. Sister Anton was the last survivor of the group of Sisters who moved from Bethany to Residential Care in November 1978.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine. When you pass through the water, I will be with you: in the rivers you shall not drown. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned; the flames shall not consume you… Fear not for I am with you.” Today’s first reading from Isaiah beautifully describes Sr. Anton’s lifelong commitment to the mission of Jesus and her loving confidence in God’s faithfulness that sustained her through some fifty years of chronic illness.

We extend our deepest sympathy to Sister Anton’s family, who are unable to be with us today. 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 Anton.