Alvina Helen was born to John and Magdalen Rosch on January 15, 1907, in Collinsville, Ill. After completing early studies at Saints Peter and Paul Parochial School and Collinsville Township High School, Alvina Helen attended Illinois State Normal University at Normal, Ill. receiving her degree in Elementary Education in 1927. Having taught for a number of years in the Illinois Public School System, Sister Mary John joined the Ursuline Sisters of Belleville, making her novitiate at the Belleville Motherhouse from 1946 to 1948.
Sister Mary John made her first profession as an Ursuline Sister on August 22,1948, and began teaching at St. Henry’s Parochial School in East St. Louis the following month. In the years that followed, Sister Mary John also taught in the elementary grades of St. Regis Parish School, Holy Childhood Parochial School of Mascoutah, Queen of Peace Grade School of Belleville and St. Luke’s Grade School of Belleville.
Sister Mary John had unique talents and she was given a “special title” and was excused from routine chores at the convent. A “special department” at the motherhouse convent reserved for her. She was never allowed to do any thing in the kitchen or any household chores, but Sister Mary John helped at the motherhouse in many other ways. She was liberated from routine “feminine” duties years ago to pursue her unusual hobbies—electronics, plumbing, and carpentry work and even did most of the repairs on her 1960 Dodge. Her visitors would show amazement at the idea of a nun having such a hobby. She said, “Oh, they don’t make the newer models as easily to repair as mine. But my main hobby is carpentry. I can build anything – desks, cupboards, cabinets. People always give me tools for Christmas.”
Sister Mary John became interested in her hobbies years prior when her family installed a bathroom at their Collinsville home. Since that time she has installed several sinks, bathrooms and done other plumbing, but declined to take full credit for her accomplishments by reminding everyone that she had “the help of kind and willing experts.” When she was a child, Sister Mary John built a double glider swing. She would laugh as she told the story of building it. “The salesman at the store that had one thought I was going to buy it because I stopped by every day for about 15 straight days, to measure one thing or another in order to proceed with its construction in the evenings.”
Sister “Fix-It” repaired and installed electric switches and outlets, rewired the motherhouse, wired the back yard so that lights could be turned from numerous spots. Sister busied herself with repairing umbrellas, electric cords, hair dryers building a book rack for Althoff High School, built a wooden stand for a roll-about fan and bought iron for building a fireplace grate.
On the morning of Sister’s funeral it was frustrating for the sisters to find out that the large refrigerators were not running. What was one to do with so many people coming and so much food to care for? After Mass the refrigerators were found to be working normally again…had “Sister Fix-It” been on the job from heaven?