Mother Mary Cecilia Koehler was born in Paola, Kansas on January 21, 1890, the fifth child of Jacob and Catherine Koehler, and was named Mary Monica. She grew up in a happy, intellectual household and soon became a tall, imposing, intelligent young girl.
When she was five years old, a group of Ursuline sisters came to Paola with the intent of opening a girls’ school in the city. The sisters were guests in the Koehler home until the school was built. Jacob Koehler rendered valuable assistance to them in their building project. When Ursuline Academy opened in Mary 1896, little Mary was one of the first to enroll in the primary department. Thereafter her life was to be associated with this Ursuline school from which she obtained her grade and high school education.
She was already an accomplished musician when she entered the Ursuline order of sisters and became known as Sister Mary Cecilia. Her later educational studies were made at the University of Kansas, where she was granted a degree in music education. She followed her career as a music teacher in Ursuline Academy, teaching piano, organ, violin, and harp in the school’s music department. In 1944 she was elected superior of the Ursuline Sisters of Paola and spent the next twelve years of her life in administration.
It was at the close of her administrative years that she accidentally came in contact with graphoanalysis. Graphoanalysis is the analysis of strokes in handwriting in order to make predictions of psychological traits of the writer. She was intrigued with the new science and, true to her intense nature, threw herself heart and soul into the mastery of the new learning experience. She became a master graphoanalyst and for the last twelve years of her life she devoted her time completely to this new career. She was voted the “Graphoanalyst of the Year” in 1961 (the first to be awarded this title) by the International Graphoanalysis Society and soon became one of the best known analysts in the country, with clients all over the United States and in foreign countries. She was sought after continually as a teacher and counselor and, because she loved the work, she answered every call, traveling to all parts of the United States and Canada, lecturing and teaching classes. A holistic graphoanalyst who focused greatly on children, Mother Cecilia urged graphoanalysts need to know the underlying cause of a child’s emotional disturbances manifested in their handwriting, and that they must closely examine external controls and influences in these children’s lives in addition to studying their handwriting. Only death stopped her activities in the field. As she neared her 80th birthday, Mother Mary Cecilia died of leukemia on June 15, 1969, mourned by graphoanalysts and a host of friends throughout America.
Lucille Range, Director of Public Affairs for the International Graphoanalysis Society, wrote this in 1978, “Until a short time before her death, Mother Cecilia continued to prepare Graphoanalysis reports for people who wanted her evaluations of their personalities – and in many, many cases the personalities of their children – writing to her from all over the world. It is my understanding that the monies she received from their Graphoanalyses went to help furnish many of the niceties in the Ursuline Academy.”
Another letter from Reverend Norman G. Werling praises Mother Cecilia thus, “[Her] personal virtues and charm as well as her many years of experience added great weight to the ideas she proposed in her lectures and private conversations. Her personal integrity and kindness convinced thousands of Americans of the value and validity of the science of graphoanalysis. She promised to keep us in her prayers. We know that from heaven she will keep her promise.”