Quietly and peacefully, our beloved Sister Irvin Marie heard the summons of her Bridegroom and, at 2:45 A.M. on this 80th anniversary of her entrance into the Oldenburg Franciscan Community, she was lifted to the waiting arms of God! How fitting that, as the Church honored the Birthday of Mary, Sister Irvin Marie was born into eternal life! How jubilant a reunion she must have experienced with the other members of her family, all preceding her on the journey to God!
Florence Catherine was the eighth of eleven children born to John and Agatha Kreimer in South Fairmount, Cincinnati. Her niece attests that the name “Florence” was too difficult for the younger children to say, so they affectionately called her “Aunt Flap”. Other family members recalled her desire, as a young girl, to look like a “flapper”, with shorter bobbed hair. Her father was a local grocer, and Florence grew up in a big, loving family. In her grade school years, Florence was taught by Oldenburg Franciscans at St. Leo School. Under the guidance of Sister Rita Ann Horstman, whom she described as “super special”, “Flap” decided at fifth grade to become a Sister. She continued her education at the Academy of the Immaculate Conception (now Oldenburg Academy) in Oldenburg, Indiana. There, Sister Marie Pierre Buttell was a powerful influence. Although it was her plan to be a nurse, “Flap” was inspired to enter the Oldenburg Franciscans, knowing she would be a teacher instead. There, she became Sister Irvin Marie, a name she chose in honor of her baby brother Irvin who had died.
Sister Irvin Marie had an illustrious career in education which spanned 42 years. As teacher and principal, she was respected and loved by all. Though she would have loved to go to China as a missionary, the Chinese government closed foreign missions and Sister Irvin Marie was sent to teach at schools in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri. Students and Sister companions have remarked on her compassionate attitude with students. Though she was strict, her kindness shone through her actions and her sense of humor could lighten the moment for a child. Even while serving as principal at St. Lawrence School in Indianapolis, Sister Irvin Marie continued to teach a class. She noted, “I felt it was important to stay in touch with the kids, and the best way to do that is through teaching.” She was especially talented as a science and math teacher. Her love of nature was well-known: plants, flowers, and butterflies were uplifting to her spirit.
After a short time as manager of employees for the Motherhouse, Sister Irvin Marie was called by the Community to become Motherhouse Minister—a role she held for five years. Recognizing the importance of this position, Sister Irvin Marie wrote, “Two qualities essential for this job are concern for the senior Sisters and availability”. So seriously did she take this responsibility that she wore a beeper in order to meet any unexpected needs. Sisters under her care found her very receptive to them, always putting their welfare first. Service to the Community continued as she became a driver for the senior Sisters at the Motherhouse, taking them to hospitals and doctors’ appointments. “Although this is not nursing,” she reflected, “it has lots of those aspects that help the ill accept their limitations, and it helps me feel very fulfilled.”
Sister Irvin Marie’s later years were spent in dealing with her own limitations brought on by age. Yet these did not keep her from living fully. Nurturing strong friendships with Sisters and staying connected to her large family were important parts of her life experience in retirement. She loved to spend time visiting, but she also enjoyed working jigsaw puzzles, Sudoku, and crossword puzzles. In addition, she continued her involvement in Community matters—retreats, Community Days and events were opportunities for her ongoing interest.
As Sister Irvin Marie’s physical activities slowed down, her reflective inner self grew to fuller maturity. Frequently, she would use both art and poetry as means of conveying her spirituality. She learned to turn the challenging experiences of her life into moments of grace as she discovered God’s presence working through them. An empty well, pictured in one sketch, caused her to ask, “Can I use my dried-up well as a means of rising up?” An unfinished tower moved her to reflect on building that “inner” tower to completion, a project which she “had started and stopped on many times before”. In one poem, entitled “My Artichoke”, she expresses, “I look to you, Lord, to find the growth that did, and can continue to be the awakening of the real true me.” This quest to know and give herself completely was truly her life-work, now brought to fulfillment in the eternal presence of God.
We extend our heartfelt sympathy to “Flap’s” nieces and nephews, to the nursing and pastoral staff of St. Clare Hall, and to all the Sister-friends who were blessed to share life-moments with Sister Irvin Marie. May our beloved Sister Irvin Marie, shining in radiant light, guide our Community and share with us the peace of heaven!
In Christ’s love,
Sister Delouise Menges
For the General Council