Carmelina Meyers, BVM died Thursday, May 11, 2017, at Marian Hall in Dubuque, Iowa. Visitation will be from 9–10:15 a.m. on Tuesday, May 16, in the Marian Hall Chapel, followed by a Sharing of Memories at 10:15 a.m. Funeral liturgy will be at 11 a.m. Burial is in the Mount Carmel cemetery.
She was born in Evanston, Ill., on Jan. 29, 1926, to James Peter and Catherine Johanna Wiltgen Meyers. She entered the BVM congregation Feb. 2, 1942, from St. Margaret Mary Parish, Chicago. She professed first vows on Aug. 15, 1944, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1949.
Sister Carmelina taught elementary school in Hempstead and Bellerose, N.Y.; and in Maywood and Grayslake, Ill. In Chicago, she taught elementary and secondary school and served in high school campus/youth ministry.
She was preceded in death by her parents, sister Beatrice L. Kalmes, and brother James F. Meyers. She is survived by a sister Patricia J. Krase, Northbrook, Ill.; nieces; nephews; and the Sisters of Charity, BVM, with whom she shared life for 75 years.
Sister Carmelina Meyers, BVM
Marian Hall, May 16, 2017
Good morning and welcome to the celebration of life of our Sister Carmelina Meyers.
As two disciples walked on the road to Emmaus, Jesus approached and entered into their conversation. After recognizing Jesus in the breaking of the bread, they said, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” For the two disciples, it was “all in the journey.” So too for Carmelina.
The earthly journey for Catherine Frances Meyers, known as Frances by her family, began on Jan. 29, 1926, in Evanston, Ill., as the firstborn child of James and Catherine Wiltgen Meyers. Two sisters, Patricia and Beatrice, and a brother James later joined the family. Frances remembered her father, a janitor and landscaper, as a very generous man, one who never passed a handicapped person without making an offering. Her mother, who worked at the parish rectory as a cook, was an outstanding baker. “Mom was an example of real faithfulness to all of us,” commented Frances. “Every day after work, she traveled to the nursing home to say the rosary with my grandmother who suffered from dementia.” While both of Frances’ parents were born in Illinois, their families originated in Luxembourg. She was very proud of her Luxembourg roots.
In her early years, Frances remembers longing to be in first grade. She recalls crying copiously as she watched the other children going off to school from her kitchen window. Apparently, the tears continued long and hard enough that her mother took her to school. After much consternation, the first grade teacher, who had an extra desk, said she would accept Frances. “I thought I was in heaven,” she remembered.
Before she finished fifth grade, Frances knew she wanted to be a sister and a teacher. This desire deepened in eighth grade. She remembers her teacher as “a strong, dynamic woman who influenced me in many ways. What was most obvious to me was her love for Jesus. Her class was alive; Jesus was real. [Jesus] made me think of the Pied Piper—he loved everyone and everyone tagged along with him. I could see myself mesmerized and tagging along too.”
Frances met the BVMs as a student at Immaculata HS in Chicago and knew she wanted to be one. “I loved it there,” she said during an interview, “there was such a friendly spirit between the sisters and the girls.” She left Immaculata after the first semester of her junior year to enter the congregation on Feb. 2, 1942. “I have never regretted that decision,” she wrote, “thanking God every day for his love, his grace, his forgiveness, my BVM community, my family and all those God has sent into my life.” She received the name Carmelina upon her reception on Aug. 15, 1942, professed first vows on Aug. 15, 1944, and lived 75 years as a BVM.
Carmelina was an elementary teacher for 45 years. She was missioned in Illinois at St. Dorothy and St. Ferdinand in Chicago, St. Eulalia in Maywood, and St. Gilbert in Grayslake; and in New York at Our Lady of Loretto in Hempstead, and St. Gregory the Great in Bellerose. Carmelina recalled that at Our Lady of Loretto there was no common lunchroom, so the children ate in the homeroom with eighth grade student monitors. The lunch girl for her room was Helen Maher Garvey!
It was at St. Gregory the Great that some of Carm’s most cherished memories were made. At the beginning, life there was very interesting because the school and convent were in the process of being finished. In the meantime, the sisters shuttled classes around from church halls to the vestibule and even outdoors. It was both a challenging and a fun experience that forged deep bonds between the teachers and the students.
For 27 years, Carmelina taught junior high students at St. Ferdinand in Chicago. With the encouragement of the pastor, she completed a two-year program at the Liturgical Institute of Chicago, laying the foundation for her service as campus minister at Madonna HS, also in Chicago. There she planned liturgies, prepared students for the sacraments and organized retreats while teaching morality and social justice classes. “The students were ethnically diverse and so interesting,” she recalled.
After retiring in Chicago, Carmelina volunteered at Ten Thousand Villages, a fair trade shop featuring handcrafted articles from developing countries. She also did cross-stitch and painted birdhouses, which she donated to fundraising events. After she moved to Mount Carmel in 2009, she became a member of the BVM “Cut-Ups,” who make birthday and seasonal decorations for dining room tables, residents’ doors, and bulletin boards. In addition, she sewed old T-shirts into diapers for babies in Madagascar. A newspaper article described Carmelina as chuckling as she pinned fabric upon fabric while commenting, “This [diaper] will keep their little butts dry.” Carmelina also took classes at the Roberta Kuhn Center and continued to enjoy cross-stitch. Several of her creations brighten the guest rooms in the BVM Center. “Retirement also gives me extra time to pray,” she shared. Of course, she enjoyed keeping in touch with family and friends.
“It’s all in the journey” was the way Carmelina approached life. “I feel I’ve been very blessed and I’m grateful for all the gifts I’ve received. At those rare times when things seemed dark, a new dimension of spirituality often opened up for me. I’ve lived with, laughed with, and been supported by many wonderful people. Being a BVM is one of my most cherished gifts.”
With her earthy journey finished, Carmelina embarked on one final journey—the journey to her heavenly home to meet her constant companion, Jesus, face-to-face.
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