No sooner than we were all settled into our site in Leelanau, we jumped in Edsel the Escape and headed back south to Indiana. This was a planned trip, as my Aunt Marge was going to be celebrating her 70th Jubilee as a Catholic nun. My cousins and my sister all were there, along with our spouses and my Uncle Ed (her brother and my Godfather). Of the fifteen sisters who were in her class in 1946, five were here celebrating on this day. Two others were celebrating 50 years, and Sister Johnilda would have celebrated her 80th Jubilee and her 100th birthday this month, but she passed in April.
The event was held at the Ancilla Domini chapel in Donaldson, Indiana, which resembles more of a cathedral than a chapel. It’s stained glass windows and hand carved statues are all imported from Germany. The altars were made in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. This branch of the sisters of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ immigrated from Germany in 1918. The chapel and motherhouse was built in 1923, the year before my aunt was born in Detroit. As the pipe organ played, memories of my mom…an accomplished pipe organist…came flooding back. I was a mess, to say the least.
Diana and I stayed at their retreat center, Lindenwood. My uncle lives in their independent living center, which is actually in the 1923 motherhouse and is open to the public. The sisters also have a two year liberal arts college that started in 1937. They’ve recently noticed the birth rate falling in the surrounding community, so they are building dormitories to attract international students. These ladies find ways to not only survive, but to also thrive and grow! If you are ever in the area, be sure to stop in for a tour. The sisters are always happy to have visitors. Ancilla Domini is listed as one of the top 15 hidden gems in Northern Indiana.
The photo above shows the existing dorm and dining hall, along with a second dorm being built. The sisters also have a complex that is their retirement and nursing home. The nursing home is where my aunt currently lives. Her eyesight is very poor, but with her independent spirit, she still tries her best to move around. She recently fell and injured her neck, so her orthopedic surgeon has her in a doozy of a neck brace and wheelchair. She isn’t very happy with the arrangement.
But don’t pity her. She’s still talking about the things the sisters are doing and looking towards the future. This is one amazing and spunky lady.
And this is her baby brother, my Uncle Ed. He will be turning 90 this June. 🙂
These sisters were all novices (trainees) under her at one time. There was also a table of people she used to work with at St Joseph Hospital in Fort Wayne, including the CEO. It was my aunt’s job to see that they followed their mission as a Catholic hospital. It’s been 20 years since she has worked there, yet here they were here this day to celebrate with her. She was obviously respected and loved by them.
A sister (by birth) of one of her novices had recently been fighting cancer and made several of these fleece blankets while undergoing chemo treatments. She explained that it was her way of focusing on giving to others, rather than dwelling on her own health issues. She gave one to my aunt…
…and one to my uncle. That was very sweet of her . 🙂 We wish her good health in the future.
After we left Donaldson, we headed to Wisconsin to see Diana’s cousin and his wife. We had a family heirloom that we wanted to take to them, and we also wanted to see the stately 1930’s home they recently purchased. We left Indiana, scooted around Chicago and crossed into Wisconsin. They live just across the border in Brodhead.
Lots of classic lines and period furniture, yet very comfortable.
While the home had an elegance to it that would typically make a person be afraid to touch anything, Duane and Gisela’s warmth and hospitality made it a cozy nest. 🙂
With them living in Wisconsin, they were sure to take us to the local dairy. Sorry about the wind-blown hair, guys! We all got a chuckle when I said “Say cheese!” The creamery’s offerings were delightful. The countryside surrounding the community consisted of rolling hills and neatly manicured farms. We decided that we need to return to the area someday and do more exploring.
From their home, we had two options to get back to Wild Cherry. We could drive either north or south to get around Lake Michigan. If it were later in the spring, we might have chosen north. Instead, we decided to retrace our steps and stop in Kalamazoo, Michigan to see our college friends Mike and Cindy. I wish I had photos, but we started right in talking and catching up…and never let up. 🙂 To offer a little history, we both had our houses built at the same time, and the four of us traded labor when we moved in back in February of 1999. Amazingly, it was sunny and in the mid 40’s both weekends, which is unheard of in Michigan. When we head back for homecoming at Western Michigan University every fall, the gang either hangs out there or at Paul and Sheryl’s house. This particular evening, the four of us went out for pizza and then we spent the night. They had to go to work the next morning, so they told us to just kick back and enjoy the place…which we did! We ended up finally leaving at 10:30 AM. 🙂 After running some errands in Grand Rapids and Traverse City, we pulled into Leelanau by early evening. Rod and Mary (who we worked with last summer, then spent the winter near in Melbourne Beach) arrived while we were gone, so it was great to see them again. Their dog Gracie was happy to be back also. 🙂
That was our four state whirlwind weekend. We made a lot of memories in a short amount of time! Thank you to our family and friends for making us feel so welcome and loved. 🙂
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