Sister Mary Louise Herrmann: Responding in Loving Service

I would like you to meet Sister Mary Louise Herrmann. She was born on June 22, 1933, and grew up in her family home in Queens, N.Y., with her parents, William and Loretta Herrmann, three brothers and two sisters.

Since there wasn’t television when she was a child, Sister Mary Louise and her siblings entertained themselves playing board games and cards. Baseball with the neighborhood children was always a big hit. They also loved to pretend they were grown-ups, acting out a variety of professions. One could find them managing a store or taking a train ride to interesting places. Sister Mary Louise remembers that, when they played doctor, they would mix the “medicine” from condiments and then drink it.

Although her brother, Leo, didn’t like it when his baby sister joined him, she would tag along when he would deliver the weekly Catholic newspaper. She later got her own route and was one of the few girls who attended a Brooklyn Dodgers game with other delivery boys.

She attended St. Mary Gate of Heaven Grade School and Our Lady of Wisdom Academy in Ozone Park, N.Y., and was taught by the Daughters of Wisdom. She enjoyed her high school years, and was a class officer for every term except one. Because of too many demerits for talking and chewing gum, she was ineligible to be an officer.

Since she could walk to school, Sister Mary Louise became very involved in after-school activities such as basketball, student council, and Legion of Mary.

While visiting her sister, Sister Beth Anne Herrmann, at the Franciscan Sisters of Baltimore convent, she was impressed by the Sisters and their work with African-American children. She desired to join them in their ministry, and so she entered the congregation on September 8, 1951, and was professed on April 3, 1954.

A portrait of Sister Mary Louise Herrmann

While she was teaching, Sister Mary Louise took education classes that were offered at the Motherhouse. She taught for 15 years on the elementary and high school levels. She preferred teaching math and science to high schoolers. They seemed to want to study and were more serious about doing well in order to go somewhere in life. She found those in the younger grades seemed to be more interested in playing.

Her most delightful ministry took place in Co-op City, N.Y. For two years, along with four other Sisters, she worked in parish ministry helping with the daily Masses, religious education programs, and clubs, as well as conducting the parish census.

What was unique about this parish was that it was located in the basement of a mall. The parish was made up of about 30 high rises and town houses. The Sisters’ convent was located on the 33rd floor of one of the apartment buildings.

Because she entered religious life to work with the poor, being able to spend 14 years at the Franciscan Center in Baltimore in Maryland was very rewarding. She was able to watch the center grow from a floor and a half to two buildings, each with four floors. At first, she worked more in the background, driving the truck and packing groceries.

Eventually, Sister Mary Louise became the director of the Franciscan Center. She worked with the staff and volunteers to provide needed services of counseling, an afternoon program for little children, clothing, and noon meals for those in need. They did what they could on a very limited budget, depending solely on donations. She stated that she will always treasure her memories of her years at the Franciscan Center.

Having been a math teacher came in very handy when she was asked to be the treasurer of her congregation, as well as to work for the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in Baltimore. It was in this ministry that she found her “niche.”

In 2001, Sister Mary Louise celebrated her 50th Jubilee. It was the year that the Franciscan Sisters of Baltimore merged with the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi in St. Francis, Wis.

Today, Sister Mary Louise lives at St. Francis Convent. Along with other Sisters, she is involved in outreach projects to those in need. She is grateful for the care she receives and enjoys the Sisters who live with her.

— by Sr. Mary Kemen