Folk Artist: Sr. Rachel’s story
Two threads have been woven together in several letters Sr. Rachel Wallace, SDS received over 60 years ago from her mother at the time she considered life as a sister. The threads can be named The Heart of a Mother, and The Hopes of a Daughter. These precious letters were kept after she received them from her mother at three different times.
As a child she was baptized Mary Patricia Wallace, the younger of two daughters born in Green Bay, the nearest hospital to her family home in De Pere, Wis. It was in Wausau, Wis. that she earned her nursing diploma at St. Mary’s Nursing School, staffed by the Sisters of the Divine Savior. After graduating with her R.N. degree, Patricia went to California for a celebratory vacation with her family. That August she entered the convent of the Sisters of the Divine Savior in Milwaukee.
Patricia told her mother about the “hopes of her heart” to begin life as a sister, during her last weeks as a nursing student. She told her mother that as one of only two daughters, it was a sacrifice, but she had enjoyed close bonding with the Salvatorian Sisters who were her friends as much as they had been her teachers. As her graduation approached she had to “act on her heart.” She felt she was being “pursued by the Hound of Heaven” (Jesus) and would have no peace until she tried life as a sister. How did her mother feel about such a decision?
In the letter that Sr. Rachel has kept for over 60 years, her mother’s words still ring with remarkable ease and clarity. “Your decision to become a Sister has also long been in my heart, dear. It was always there while you were growing up. A long time ago I quietly dedicated you to Mary, the mother of our Lord, and still this grace and choice of which you write must shake us both to the heart. For me, I hope to find real worthiness to be the mother of you, my daughter and now a Sister! I want you to go forward. How your sister Nancy will miss you, too!”
A year later, in a ceremony to wear the clothing of a novice, Addie Wallace was present to hear the new name given her daughter. She was to be Sister Rachel! This Hebrew name is that of an Old Testament woman who was a gentle, tender mother of two sons, Joseph and Benjamin. Sr. Rachel’s mother felt the new name to be a suitable, beautiful name for her tall daughter. She wrote after the event in a letter, “Rachel will be your special name. It makes me happy you are chosen by the Lord. I often think I have only a short lifetime left to earn all this happiness I feel for you.”
Sr. Rachel’s mother Addie would write one more time on the occasion of her daughter’s first profession in 1959. “I am filled with wonder as your dear mother. I pray, knowing God gives you all the grace and the physical strength to carry out the loving plans God has in mind for you!” Her words echo the vow formula the sisters use with these words as a final prayer: “May God complete in me the work He has begun!”
With these letters and the years of living faithfully into the life of a Salvatorian Sister, we see the great heart of a mother and the hopes of a daughter!
By Sr. Karlyn Cauley, SDS