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Remembering Mother Mary Agnes
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Remembering Mother Mary Agnes

A warm, sunny, early summer day found me and Notre Dame Today Editor Steve Ruic enjoying the beauty of the Chardon Educational Center, reminiscing with Sisters of Notre Dame about Mother Agnes Bosche. We sat in the bright, sunlit lounge of the assisted living area with Sisters Mary St. Martha Conrad ’43, Teresita Gresko ’60, Mary St. Jude Weisensell ’56, Mary St. Leo DeChant, and Patricia Gannon. The Sisters all knew Mother Agnes during her later years at Notre Dame College when she served as Directress of the Junior Professed and ultimately as College President.

As the Sisters reminisced, they recalled memories of a warm, modest and very wise Mother Agnes. Their love and respect for her reflected in every word and gesture as each shared a memory or two.

Sr. Patricia Gannon told us that the students felt close to Mother Agnes and knew her as a kind, gentle and understanding person. She was energetic and focused on building into the lives of the young Notre Dame women. However, they knew nothing about her days in “exile” after she was relieved of her duties as dean of the College by the Diocesan Bishop in 1934 over differences in philosophy regarding the supervision of young women. She did not return to the College until 1947. Although Mother Agnes never revealed those years of her life, Sr. Pat believed they had a “profound effect on her, for this was the period during which she was moved to write several books on charity.”

Sr. St. Martha recalled Mother Agnes as a very kind and compassionate individual, totally equipped to work with young people. She accepted her exile from the College and even grew because of it. She gave the students good advice, often based on her personal experiences. According to Sr. St. Martha, “She had a knack for dealing with people and made you want to do the right thing and be the best you can be.” She was intent on developing women socially, intellectually and spiritually.

So great was Sr. St. Jude’s admiration for Mother Agnes that she saved everything Mother Agnes had written. She shared her well-worn pocket notebook filled with quotations from Mother Agnes and described how “Mother Agnes had a unique way of reading the minds and hearts of people. She was always concerned with what people thought and how they felt.” Mother always encouraged the students by telling them “I expect the best from you.”

Sr. Teresita explained that Mother Agnes was known to punctuate her speech with the question “not so?” particularly after giving advice. Mother Agnes was a practical woman who recycled paper that was used on only one side long before recycling came into vogue. She took care of her father in his later years, another reason for her empathy toward other people and their troubles. She reminded the students to exercise the proper decorum of the day with advice such as “a lady never laughs out loud,” “close the doors quietly,” or gently telling a young Sr. St. Jude, following a rambunctious moment, that she “resembled a Texas colt running up the stairs.”

Sr. St. Leo remembered Mother Agnes as being very insightful and understanding. She recalls how she was often homesick and would tear up easily. One day, as the Sisters picked raspberries, a young soldier visited. He had served with Sr. St. Leo’s brother who died in the Solomon Islands and related stories of their time together during World War II. As she shared the story with us, Sr. St. Leo could not help but weep at the memory. She recalled that Mother Agnes told her to get a bowl of raspberries for herself, a suggestion that cheered the young sister.

When asked what Mother Agnes would think of Notre Dame College today, the Sisters replied that perhaps she would want the College to pay more attention to the spiritual growth of the students, but she would surely be happy with the College’s recent growth.

“Not so?”

Mary Ann Kovach '06 is the Director of Public Relations at Notre Dame College.