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Sr. Mary St. Martha Celebrates 65 Years
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Sr. Mary St. Martha Celebrates 65 Years

No one who knows Sr. Mary St. Martha Conrad, SND ‘43, will be surprised that before she talked to me about her life and career we had to first have a lunch that included “honeymoon” salad and homemade cookies. Sister had just brought these cookies from her birth sister’s home following a Christmas visit.

What is honeymoon salad? “Lettuce alone” – a typical Sr. St. Martha joke.

Sister spent 1972 through 2004 at the College, working for seven presidents, from Sr. Mary Luke, SND, to Dr. Andrew Roth. Now she lives at the residence for retired Sisters in Chardon, a move she accepted with prayerful grace when Providence Hall was needed to accommodate the growing enrollment.

She does have one complaint about her present living arrangement: AM radio does not come in clearly, so she has to “hear” sports events via television. “Radio is more colorful and specific,” she says. Sister uses her listening time to simultaneously accomplish some of her other hobbies.

She likes to read (having just finished John Allen’s book on Pope Benedict XVI), works jigsaw and word puzzles, enjoys classical music and playing the organ, communicates with friends and family via computer, and does all kinds of needlework, which is for sale to benefit the Sisters. She has already spent more than 200 hours on a not-yet-finished counted cross stitch of two horses’ heads.

But “teaching is my life,” she said once, and indeed Sister taught for more than 58 of her 65 years as a Sister.

She first taught high school math, home economics and choral music for 30 years, then came to Notre Dame following the death of Sr. Mary Cordilia, former head of home economics at the College. Sr. Mary St. Martha took over the home economics responsibilities and later headed the department of nutrition and dietetics. In fact, in the 1980s, Sister was the department.

She was also the American Dietetic Association program director and is proud of her good record in securing internships for students. “The dietetics students knew what they were there for,” Sister said. “They always did well academically.”

In her later years at the College, Sister volunteered in the Advancement Office and served as alumnae moderator. She was a most effective phonathon caller, often staying up late so she could reach people at their west coast homes.

And she played once a year on the faculty baseball team. A strong batter since girlhood, Sister did admit to needing someone to run the bases for her in later years. She was once given a season’s pass to see the Cleveland Indians, but those were the days when Sisters were not allowed to attend sporting events. The pass is in her scrapbook.

She also baked a good luck cake for the Cleveland Browns prior to a Pittsburgh game that the Browns won by one point. Former Browns head coach, Sam Rutigliano sent Sister a pair of tickets for a subsequent event. These she had to give away.

Sister entered the Sisters of Notre Dame in 1938 as a high school sophomore. She graduated from Notre Dame Academy, then earned a bachelor’s of science from Notre Dame College and an master’s of science from Western Reserve University. She also studied at St. Louis, Ohio State, Catholic and Youngstown State universities.

“My days go by quickly,” Sister said. “I make a holy hour every day, and I always pray for the College’s administrators, students, faculty, and alumni.”

Thank you, Sister. We’ll pray for you, too, in gratitude for all you’ve done for our College.

Barbara Herzog Patterson ‘56 is an Ignatian Spiritual Advisor and an Honorary Trustee at Notre Dame College from Bratenahl, Ohio.