Left, Father John Tonkin gives a blessing at the prayer service for the cemetery; right, new bronze plaques list the name of each Sister buried in the cemetery.
A bright and beautiful autumn day was the perfect setting for a special event held Oct. 20, 2019, at the Maria Stein Shrine, the Precious Blood Sisters’ first motherhouse in Maria Stein, Ohio. As the Sisters of the Precious Blood celebrate 175 years of ministry in the United States, numerous Sisters and friends of the Congregation gathered for a blessing of the Maria Stein Convent cemetery and a presentation on the Congregation’s Ten Foundations.
From 1878 to 1967, 291 Sisters were buried in the Maria Stein Convent cemetery. In 1931, the remains of 52 Sisters were transferred from the Himmelgarten Convent cemetery (near St. Henry) to Maria Stein in two mass burial plots. In 1940, 58 Sisters buried at Mary’s Home Convent cemetery in Jay County, Indiana, were transferred to Maria Stein in unmarked individual burials. In 1951, the remains of 131 Sisters were transferred from the Gruenenwald Convent cemetery (near Cassella) to Maria Stein in one mass burial plot. Bronze plaques now list the name of each Sister.
Sister Noreen Jutte, CPPS archivist emeritus, conducted research on the cemetery project and the early convents established in the area. “This entire project of updating the cemetery so that every Sister’s name is mentioned has been a goal of ours for a long time,” Sister Noreen said. “This is a tremendous way to respect those who have gone before us.”
Sarah Aisenbrey, archivist for the Sisters of the Precious Blood, added: “The Congregation’s commitment to its history is exemplified in this project; honoring these Sisters in this way is a tribute to their legacy. Thank you to everyone who assisted with this undertaking.”
As part of the blessing and prayer service, Father John Tonkin, rector of the Maria Stein Shrine, said, “Lord, You have made Your people a pilgrim church, to be welcomed by you into its eternal home. Bless our gathering in this cemetery as we remember all who are buried here. May this place, prepared in the sure hope of the resurrection, never cease to remind us of the life that we are to share in Christ, who will transform our earthly bodies to be like his in glory, for he is Lord for ever and ever.”
Father John credited the Sisters’ longtime practice of perpetual adoration with bringing “such a sense of peace, such a sense of holiness and sacredness to this area.”
Following the prayer service, Sister Maryann Bremke gave a presentation on the 10 convents — often called the Ten Foundations — established in America by Father Francis de Sales Brunner from 1844 to 1856. Maria Stein Shrine is the last of the Ten Foundations in existence.
CPPS President Sister Edna Hess remarked on the Congregation’s 175th anniversary in the U.S. “A major portion of those 175 years have been spent here in Maria Stein and the surrounding area. I was raised in Carthagena, Ohio, and the Maria Stein Shrine and the [nearby] retreat house have been a part of my life forever,” she said. “As we celebrate these 175 years in the U.S. — and 172 of them here in Maria Stein — we are grateful for all that has been and for all that will be.”
— Story by Mary Knapke and Sister Noreen Jutte; Michelle Bodine photos