Beatified nun opened orphanage
By TOM HEINEN
Posted: July 2, 2006
Wauwatosa – The neighborhood residents who walk their dogs along Kavanaugh Place, and the kids who tempt fate by whooshing down its hill on skateboards and inline skates into the busy historic village area below, might be following the footsteps of a saint.
|Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart
Sister Mary Kathleen, a house parent at the Carmelite Home for Boys, 1214 Kavanaugh Place, plays basketball with the boys at the home. It was founded by Mother Maria Teresa of St. Joseph and is a ministry of the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus.
|More photos: Slideshow
|Mass To Celebrate Beatification|
|The public is invited to a Mass celebrating the beatification of Mother Maria Teresa of St. Joseph at 2 p.m. July 15 in the gymnasium at the rear of the Carmelite Home for Boys, 1214 Kavanaugh Place, Wauwatosa. Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan will preside. The Mass will be preceded by a 1:30 p.m. rosary and benediction. Extra parking will be available in the nearby lot at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, 7809 Harwood Ave., and at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital, 1220 Dewey Ave.|
Not that Mother Maria Teresa of St. Joseph, who was beatified in May, would have wanted them to know.
Humble and pious, she shied away from personal acclaim.
A mystic, she said she knew which buildings to buy – including a home in Wauwatosa – because she saw them in dreams beforehand.
"The deep shade of the streets, the dark green of the lawns, the beautiful flowers in front of the houses and, above all, our location on a hill, made Wauwatosa a truly charming place," she wrote later in her autobiography.
Loving, optimistic, ascetic and self-sacrificing, she is said to have spoken ill of no one.
Also known to have been impatient and more than a tad authoritarian in her rush to help orphans and the aged, she might cast a longing eye at the speed of the Tosa kids if she were alive today. She had to walk up and down the hill from the village when she bought two houses and the lot between them about 1916 to found an orphanage for boys and a Wisconsin convent for her religious order, the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus.
And today, she might walk on past the modern Chancery Pub & Restaurant next to railroad tracks in the old village area. In her day, she and her nuns went begging door-to-door to survive. But they reportedly got a letter from the bishop telling them to stop entering bars for donations because the faithful might, in effect, misconstrue which spirit was inspiring them.
‘Nothing could stop her’
Father Mihaly Szentmartoni, a Jesuit psychologist at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, uses a railroad metaphor in his new biography of her, "Even Then Will I Trust." While reading her autobiography, he wrote, "The image of a hurtling locomotive appeared before my spiritual eyes. This fairly fragile woman rumbled through this world . . . not only in the figurative sense. She actually crisscrossed old Europe who knows how many times, and also went to America.
"Travel became a symbol of her life. Like the good old steam locomotives of her time, she whizzed by, overcoming every obstacle in her path, pulling her train, i.e., her associates, candidates, nuns and thousands of impoverished children, old persons and others who suffered from spiritual or physical misery. Like a good old locomotive, she could fume at those who tried to block her path. No one and nothing could stop her until she reached her final destination, the last station on her journey."
Now, some 90 years later, suburban homes sit across from an expanded Carmelite Home for Boys at 1214 Kavanaugh Place. Since 1967, it has served as a residential treatment center for delinquent, emotionally disturbed and dependent boys sent by courts in several southeastern Wisconsin counties and from Department of Corrections detention facilities. Run by administrator Sister Mary Petra and director James Lewis, the home is licensed for 40 youths and normally serves about 20, with a lay principal, a nun who is a house parent and a lay staff of about 20.
Attached to it, at 1230 Kavanaugh Place, is the now-modern provincial house for the Carmelite’s Northern Province, their first provincial house in America. The religious order that Mother Teresa founded in Germany in 1891 – which, unlike cloistered communities, combines four daily periods of communal contemplative prayer with active, apostolic ministry – now has about 500 sisters spread across parts of the United States, Canada, Western and Eastern Europe, Central and South America, Africa and Iceland.
Mother Teresa, whose name is often Americanized in print as Mary Teresa, was born Anna Maria Tauscher, the daughter and granddaughter of Lutheran pastors, in 1855. She was beatified May 13 during ceremonies in the Cathedral of Roermond in the Netherlands, giving her the formal title of Blessed Maria Teresa.
One step from sainthood
Beatification, the final step before canonization as a saint, requires evidence of one miracle after the person’s death. Evidence of a second miracle is required for sainthood, and there is no way to predict how long that might take.
"It was breathtaking. It was beautiful," said Sister M. Immaculata, superior of the Wauwatosa provincial house, who traveled to the Netherlands for the event. "There were a lot of people there . . . cardinals, priests and religious. The lady who was cured, she was there with her husband."
That woman was identified as Mrs. M.J. Pieters-Maas of Heerlen, Netherlands. For 26 years, her feet were severely afflicted with a chronic infection that made it difficult for her to walk unassisted and caused bleeding, pain and loss of all toenails. After she began making novenas, a recitation of prayers and a practicing of devotions for nine days, and prayed for a cure at the grave of Mother Teresa at the order’s general motherhouse in Sittard, Netherlands, she was completely cured, according to Carmelite accounts of the Vatican’s investigation.
Mother Teresa was rejected by her family and dismissed from her job as head nurse of a mental institution in Berlin after converting to Catholicism in 1888. Noted for her quiet acceptance of suffering, she endured loneliness, illness, poverty and bone-wearying physical work as she recognized and pursued a calling to form a new religious community in the spirit of Saint Teresa of Avila, according to biographies and Carmelite booklets.
She was in the United States and Canada from 1912 to 1920, establishing or paving the way for convents and ministries to help orphans and the aged in Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Texas, California, Kentucky and Canada. The traditional order, whose nuns wear habits, now has about 100 vowed members in three U.S. provinces. The Northern Province, which has had an upswing in new vocations in the past four years, has 23 nuns, four novices and one postulant, Immaculata said. Twelve of them live in the provincial house. Five more women are seeking admission to the order, she added.
Initially rejected by bishops in Cleveland and Chicago, in a pattern similar to what she determinedly overcame in Europe, Mother Teresa was welcomed in Milwaukee by the late Archbishop Sebastian Messmer. She established an orphanage for girls on Pierce St. in 1912 and moved it to a larger residence on N. 17th St. near W. Wells St. in 1915.
In the mid-1920s, the sisters solved overcrowding at the orphanage by buying the General Billy Mitchell family summer home on W. Lincoln Ave. in West Allis. It served girls until about 1936, when it merged with St. Rose Orphanage.
The sisters ran the former mansion as a home for the elderly from 1948 until a shortage of sisters caused them to sell it in 1996. Known as Mitchell Manor, it is now operated by Premier Care Centers, providing a skilled nursing home and rehabilitation center, a community based residence, adult day services and respite care. The sisters still operate St. Joseph’s Home for the Aged in Kenosha.
Mother Teresa died in 1938 in the Netherlands.