SISTER MARY REGIS, APRIL 21, 2007
Sister Mary Regis spends full days at Madonna University: Morning mass, numerous activities, even full-blown interviews with a gangly crew of filmmakers from Visionalist.
You’d think that at age 102, it might be time to slow down a bit.
Sister Mary, born in 1906, has been a nun for a record-breaking 84 years. Having made her vows at a time when there were more nurses than teachers, she went into education, and spent over sixty years in classrooms in and around the Detroit area. Though confined to a wheelchair these days, it’s very much her wheelchair and she is fully able to get around by herself.
Spry and conversant about her Polish upbringing in Detroit, there’s no way you’d guess her age without being told. By the way, it’s 103 next February. The Polish tradition of singing ‘Stolat!’ on birthdays (Translated to “I hope you live one hundred years”) is officially out of date with Sister Mary Regis.
Ensconced within the beautiful campus of Madonna University, Sister Mary Regis is enjoying her later years surrounded by the love and attention of her fellow Felician Sisters.
The Felician Sisters are officially known as the Congregation of Sisters of St. Felix of Cantalice Third Order Regular of St. Francis of Assisi. It is a religious institute of pontifical right whose members profess public vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience and follow the evangelical way of life in common. The aim of the community is to cooperate with Christ in the spiritual renewal of the world. As an apostolic congregation, the Felician Sisters fulfill their mission in the Church through contemplation and action.
The Felician community had its historic beginnings in nineteenth century Poland, which had ceased to exist as a nation in 1795 when it was partitioned by Russia, Prussia, and Austria. Its beginnings in the Russian sector of Poland were tempered by the grief and anguish of the poor and afflicted as the country struggled under the oppression of its foreign rulers.
Sister Mary Regis represents the pinnacle, in age and career, of the Sisters. Far too modest to acknowledge this, she remains staunchly independent nonetheless:
“There’s a lot of life in me yet…” she says with a confident nod.