Sister Michel Marie Hoban, MM

Born: February 25, 1908
Entered: June 10, 1937
Died: January 20, 2001

We gather today to celebrate the life of Sister Michel Marie Hoban, a woman steeped in faith and trust, dedicated to mission, who generously shared her life, gifts and talents with her Maryknoll Sisters, family and friends. Sister Michel Marie Hoban returned peacefully to God on Saturday, January 20, 2001. She was 92 years of age and had been a Maryknoll Sister for 63 years.

Helen Theresa Hoban was born February 25, 1908 in New York City to Michael and Ellen Cunningham Hoban. She was the youngest of their four children, and her sister and two brothers were considerably older than she. Helen attended public schools and graduated from Julia Richman High School. She worked at a prestigious firm on Wall Street as a secretary for twelve years before entering Maryknoll from St. Teresa’s Parish, Woodside, Long Island, New York on June 10, 1937.

At Reception, Helen received the religious name of Sister Michel Marie, the name she retained throughout her religious life. She made her First Profession of Vows at Maryknoll on the Feast of the Epiphany in 1940 and her Final Profession on the same date three years later.

Mother Mary Joseph was quick to recognize Sister Michel Marie’s secretarial skills and her proficiency in bookkeeping which were crucial to the Congregation. Thus, right after Reception, Sister was assigned to work in the Treasury. She served the Congregation and the Society in the field of financial management for over fifty-five years; forty-five of those years here at the Center and ten years in Kenya.

In 1951, Sister Michel Marie obtained an Associate Degree in Applied Sciences in Building and Construction from the State University of New York. Sister was following a family tradition as her father was in the building and construction business, and her interest in and ability in the field came naturally to her. Her new specialization was quickly put to use and she was involved in overseeing the construction of Rogers Building. She also traveled to two Regions to supervise Maryknoll Sisters’ building projects. Sister Michel Marie had an incredible memory and until very recently, she could recall in great detail the building projects she supervised and even remembered which Sisters wanted what components built into Rogers Building.

Sister Michel Marie was appointed Treasurer General in 1958, an assignment she held for twelve years. She carried out her vast responsibilities in the days before the computer, with diligence and competence. She sought for better and more efficient ways to do things and avoided waste in both effort and financial resources. Having worked closely with Mother Mary Joseph she imbibed Mother’s spirit of gratitude to God for all that was given us. She took this quote of Mother’s very much to heart: “Almost everything that we have comes to us through free gifts, the good will offering of the poor, and we accept them as alms. We have no right to these gifts and we should always use the things given to us with a deep gratitude in our hears. Such sentiments enrich our lives.”

After finishing her term as Treasurer, and at the age of 63, Sister Michel Marie was thrilled to receive her assignment to Kenya. She said she had wanted to go to Africa ever since 1948 when she went to the departure of the first group of four Sisters assigned to Tanzania. Each Sister in that initial group going to Tanzania could chose one Sister to go to the airport to see her off and Sister Margaret Rose Winkelmann invited Sister Michel Marie to accompany her. Sister Michel Marie caught their spirit of excitement and enthusiasm and looked forward to the day she might join them.

After attending language school in Tanzania Sister proceeded to Kenya where she served for ten years. Describing her work with Sister Dolores Marie Jansen she wrote: “Our ministry is one of presence, witness, and service to the Maryknoll community, Sisters, Fathers and Brothers. It consists in performing as efficiently as we can financial and clerical duties, thereby hopefully contributing toward a smoother administration for both groups. In addition, it is our pleasure to provide small procuration services for our Sisters in Tanzania and the Sudan and to provide hospitality for Maryknoll Sisters needing accommodation in Nairobi.” The procuration for Sudan entailed getting whatever food or equipment the Sisters requested and taking it to the office of Bob Koepp, a pilot with the Lutheran World Federation, who would take the supplies to the Sisters free of charge whenever he made his regular flights into the Sudan. To thank him for his kindness, the Sisters kept him well provided with delicious homemade cookies.

In a letter received yesterday from Sister Rosemarie Milazzo who lived with Sister Michel Marie in Kenya she wrote: “Shortly after Sister Michel Marie arrived, Sister Eileen Manning and I invited her to come live with us in Kitale, a new mission we had just moved into that year. Michel came and added so much to our community. She was such fun, she enjoyed parties, enjoyed playing bridge and loved company. She made the house a home for us. We were both out teaching all day and would return home to her cheery presence. She attended all of the area meetings and everyone loved having her around. She made the best pineapple upside down cake and anytime I needed ‘filling up’ I would suggest a pineapple upside down cake and Michel would have it ready.

She made friends with the Brothers who were our neighbors and started a bridge club. She and I then moved to Eldoret and shared a two-sister house. She was such a lovely companion. As she was Regional Treasurer at the time, we had so many Sisters visiting us and Michel always welcomed and made people feel at home as she dealt with their financial problems. In Eldoret, she made friends with the Sacred Heart Sisters and she would often visit the Sister who stayed at home. Michel was a wonderful companion for her.”

Sister Michel Marie enjoyed reading and kept abreast on politics, faithfully reading her Newsweek. She got her exercise by walking her small dog Robo who had a wonderful disposition and was well known to all the Sisters in the Region. Sister was always happy to go where she was needed and during her ten years in Kenya she moved three times so she could be of more help. In addition to her regular duties on the Regional level, she kindly volunteered to help the Sisters in the schools to audit their books and was very patient throughout this process. The Sisters found it easy to write to her about requests for funds as she often told them: “Tell me what you need. It’s not my money, it’s our money.” Sister Michel Marie initiated Regional Pooling of funds and helped the Sisters to understand it and appreciate the spirit behind it.

The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers who worked with her in their Regional Office in Nairobi respected her abilities and appreciated her as a person.

Sister returned to the Maryknoll Sisters Center in 1981 where she again served in the Treasury from 1982 until her official retirement in 1993. Her generous nature shone through, however, as she responded to Sister Marian Teresa Dury’s request to do the Main House Council finances for a period of two years, from 1993 to 1995.

During her years here at the Center when Sister lived on the third floor she kept in touch with the Sisters from Kenya and Tanzania. Sister Michel Marie was a loyal friend whose friendships lasted a lifetime. The Sisters were amazed by her ability to recall not only the names of their family members but their family histories as well. She participated in all their get-togethers, departures and birthdays. Her passion for bridge parties continued and she gladly traveled to different parts of the Center when invited to a good bridge game.

At the time of her Diamond Jubilee in 1997 she wrote to the Congregational Leadership Team thanking them for the gift of a sun catcher – “the sparkling gift” as she called it. She wrote: “The sun will turn it into a diamond to always remind me of this Diamond Jubilee Celebration. I thought my Fiftieth was wonderful, but this Diamond Jubilee will be remembered in a very special way because I celebrated it here with so many of my Maryknoll Sisters.”

We welcome and offer our sympathy to Sister’s family and friends. We also welcome our Maryknoll brother, Father Thomas McDonnell, friend and Kenya missioner with Sister, who will preside at this Eucharistic Liturgy of Christian Burial as we join together in thanking God for the life of our Sister Michel Marie.