Wake Reflection for Sister Robert Angela Fleischmann, OSU
Jesus, Jesus, come to me,
All my longing is for Thee,
Of all friends the best Thou art,
Make of me Thy counterpart.
Jesus, I live for Thee,
Jesus, I die for Thee,
I belong to Thee,
Forever in life and death.
These are words from a-hymn, copyrighted in 1920. The page bearing these words had been carefully cut from a hymnal, pasted on a piece of cardboard, and placed by Sister Robert Angela in her archival file. In early evening on Sunday, June 22, on the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, the Source of all her longing gathered up Sister Robert Angela into a loving embrace, and the transition from earthly life to life eternal was made.
In the name of the community, the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, I offer our love and sympathy to Sister. Robert Angela’s family and friends, especially to her siblings Rita, Melvin, Brother Conrad, Aubert, Urban, and Paul. To the staff in health care and pastoral care our loving gratitude and deepest respect for your ministry to our sisters. To Sisters Charles Ann, Anita, and Agnes Cecilia, classmates of Sister Robert Angela, we express our heartfelt sympathy.
Sister Robert Angela was born Lorena Philomena, the daughter of Robert Joseph and Mary Ann Fischer Fleischmann on May 28,1909 in Poseyville, Indiana. She was the fourth of 12 children. In reminiscing about her early childhood, Sister Robert Angela writes: “During my first year of life Mama was in the hospital taking care of my dad who was dying of tuberculosis, so I was left in the care of my cousin who later became Sister Monica, an Ursuline Sister of Louisville. My cousin told me that I cried much of the time, so I judge that I was either sick or spoiled, perhaps a bit of both. After my mother’s second marriage we moved to Kentucky and attended Saint Anthony School and Church in Browns Valley. I grew up in the horse and buggy days. My earliest recollections of my parents were of their deep prayerfulness. I can remember mother taking me by the hand and leading me in the sign of the cross. The words were in German. In the evening we prayed the rosary on our knees in the kitchen. Since farmers worked late, our evening meal was late. As you might expect, we often fell over a chair asleep; however, then came the gentle reminder to wake up and pray.
“Our Christmas celebration was different from many people. On Christmas morning we were awakened early to attend the five o’clock morning Mass. As soon as we dressed we rushed to the kitchen. The table was set and on each plate were candy, nuts, an apple, and an orange. If we needed gloves, socks, a cap or handkerchiefs, we would find them on a chair. Games or toys were the kind we shared such as checkers, dominoes, or storybooks. The bigger or more expensive toy would be a wagon for the boys, which they all played with. My sister Eugenia received a doll and my gift was a doll buggy or bed, which we all shared.
“Many times people recall how they played church when young. We played something a little different on Sunday afternoons. When four girl friends came to see us, we played getting married in the Christian Church. (Their services were over!) One of us played the organ, one was the preacher, and the rest of us marched up the aisle. I am certain neither mother nor dad knew of this for they would not approve; however we bothered nothing.
“During my teens none of the neighbors ever thought of my going to the convent because some people seem to think that Sisters never cared for dates, parties, and dancing. Quite the contrary! I had my share of all these.”
At the age of 20, Lorena Philomena entered the postulancy program of the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph on September 8, 1929 and on March 19, 1930, Lorena Philomena received the name of Sister Robert Angela. Temporary vows were professed on March 19, 1932 and perpetual vows on March 19, 1935. The years from September 1932 through June 1978 Sister Robert Angela spent as teacher of the primary grades in schools throughout the diocese of Owensboro and the archdiocese of Louisville. Her preference was teaching the young in the rural areas. Sister Robert Angela wrote: “One year I had four first communion classes. In all my work as a teacher this is what I liked best.”
In September 1978 Sister Robert Angela began her second career in the inner city of Louisville. She lived at Saint Boniface Convent with nine other retired Sisters who were volunteering wherever there was a need. Sister Robert Angela engaged in ministry to the sick and elderly in the hospitals and nursing homes. She was a vigorous supporter of the American Red Cross and received many certificates of appreciation. Sister Robert Angela even found time for sharing her expertise as educator by tutoring. After leaving Saint Boniface in 1988, each of these ministries was continued while residing at Saint Angela Convent on Edenside Avenue until 1992.
Sister Robert Angela retired to the motherhouse in 1992. In the late nineties, she suffered the amputation of her leg. There are times when I think that the loss of her leg was more difficult for the rest of us than for her. She seemed so accepting and oftentimes remarked cheerfully and proudly that she had lived so many more years than the doctor, who examined her before entering postulancy, had forecast. “Our family doctor told my mother that I was of delicate health and would probably die of tuberculosis before the age of thirty. How mistaken he was! I have tripled thirty and then some. Physically, I became stronger through the years. Life is too important just to think of yourself.”
Sister Robert Angela, you were caught up in God’s friendship! You had been nourished by Eucharist, the Bread of Life, on Sunday morning on the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ and it just wasn’t enough this time. You were prepared for the ultimate step of human destiny, the final meeting with God. We await this moment. We prepare for it every day. We will see God in you.
Sister Rose Marita
Congregational Leader 2000-2004
June 24, 2003