Vigil: July 13, 2020 at the Nazareth Motherhouse
Eulogist: Sister Marilyn Wall
Alice Marie Stalker was born on Oct. 3, 1930 in Aurora Illinois. Her parents were Robert Kenneth and Veronica Lucille (Schopp) Stalker. She was the oldest of seven children. Only two of them survive her; Charlotte and Kate. Alice was Baptized at Sacred Heart Church in Aurora on Oct. 19, 1930. Alice also made her First Communion and was Confirmed at Sacred Heart.
Of that time Alice relates that the early ’30s were hard and her parents were no exception.
“My Dad was jobless or working at many different jobs during those years. It was my mother who kept the household, reared the children and carried the responsibility for family life and molding our spiritual and moral values. Many evenings she kept us entertained with numerous poems and rhymes, some funny and others that sent chills up and down the spine as her voice made the words come alive.”
“Sister Renilda was my teacher in second, third, fifth and sixth grades and she had a great influence on my life. She was a great teacher and I learned well. Her sense of humor, ready laughter and concern for us showed in everything she did. From my first encounter, the seed of vocation was awakened and I decided I too would be a sister someday.”
“When I was 13 my Dad had a very serious case of rheumatic fever followed by pneumonia. On March 19 of that year, Dad died at the age of 35. I was stunned and bewildered. I tried to remain stoic, thinking this would help my mother and asking St. Joseph to take me under his fatherly protection. However, reality soon awakened me to the fact that my mother was left at age 34 with seven children ranging in age from one and 1/2 to 13. How scary this must have been for her as I retrospect. I assured her that I would always be there to help her.”
“Toward the end of eighth grade we were invited to visit the Catholic High Schools. I went to Madonna, an all girls school taught by the Milwaukee Franciscans. Before the day was over, I fell in love with the place and enrolled for my freshman year. Can you imagine my mother’s surprise on learning this piece of news? The expense of the school was more than we could afford, but with the help my grandparents Schopp and a scholarship offered me, school would be possible. I shall always be indebted to the Sisters of St. Francis who, I’m sure, helped nourish the vocation awakened in me way back at my first encounter with a Sister of St. Joseph. My class work was interesting and challenging. My sophomore year I started my first job at Prince Ice Cream Castle. This job I had the last three years of high school and with the money from this job I was able to pay tuition, buy books and purchase my own clothes.”
“My senior year I began to think seriously of the Religious Life. With help from Sisters Renilda, Edmond and Marie Marcotte, planning for entrance in September 1949 took place. Sister Mary Jean Assell and I were the first vocations from the parish for quite some time. Six months later, all 15 of us, after an eight day retreat and dressed as brides, processed down the chapel isle as the words ‘Veni Sponsa Christi’ were sung. The impact of its meaning was not as clear as the beautiful melody, but placing our love and trust in the Heavenly Bridegroom, sure of His unfaltering love for us and our undaunted love for Him, the first step on our spiritual journey began”
“Soon it was time to pronounce temporary vows. I remember wanting to, but the idea of a lifetime commitment brought a tinge of fear and many ‘what ifs.’ With much prayer and remembering His promises I placed my trust in him and another stepping stone in my life was laid.”
“On Aug. 15, 1952, I was assigned to teach fifth and sixth grades in Damar. Being born in the city and its noises the quiet, slow activity and being surrounded by grasses (which I later learned was wheat) was very strange to me. When talking to my mother by phone the only description I could find was that it resembled those towns we’d seen in the cowboy movies. The next year I was assigned to Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Concordia and resided at the Motherhouse. The drop to teach second grade was a good one for me. I really believe God gave me a gift of relating to His little ones and I rejoiced in watching toothless cherubs grow in wisdom and age. During these years death claimed my mother to cancer and my favorite grandparents.”
“My last teaching years were in Salina at St. Mary’s (16 years). During those years I joined Sisters Christine Doman and Pauline Kukula in a smaller living situation. The relationship was filled with sharing with one another. In particular, Pauline has been a close companion in work and play and contributed much to my life.”
When Polly celebrated her 60th Jubilee, she said of Alice: ‘I met and began teaching with Sr. Alice Marie in 1970. I was impressed with her teaching style and her gentle manner with the first graders. She had a reverence for each person and in a gentle, yet firm manner, could set expectations and bring out the best behaviors and achievements of each child. She had a pleasant and quiet sense of humor and the students knew that they were OK with her. I got to teach with her for 12 years and that is when I really began to love teaching. I have moved on to junior high teaching in the last 32 years, but there is not a day in the classroom that I do not think of her manner and style of relating to students and try to emulate that. It has brought much joy to my teaching.”
Within the past year I was eating dinner with Sister Alice and Sister Rosie Dwyer. They were remembering their years of teaching with as many as 60 students in a classroom. I said:”What would you do with 60 1st graders?” Alice responded very simply: “You teach them!”
In 1996, Sister Alice moved to Medialle Center in Salina. “My main ministry there was the upkeep of the building and hours spent accompanying sisters to doctor appointments and to the hospital.”
In 2008, she moved to the Motherhouse where she helped in any way she could and was a source of inspiration and kindness.
“Looking back over the years God and I have been in the process of molding a masterpiece and transforming it into something beautiful! God and I are not finished yet. My prayer has become more an experience of quiet than words: a deep down peace and a sense of the presence of God within and without.”
“I’m grateful to the Community for the many blessings I received from and through them. Especially they were there to share the journey, and support and encouragement were readily available. I pray God gives me the grace to journey on until I rest in His arms.”
“Thanks also to my family who have been a special blessing in my life and I love them dearly. The only regret I have is that I couldn’t share more closely in their lives because of the distance that separated us. However, we held each other in our hearts and prayers. We’ll have a real ‘smash banging’ get-together in Heaven!”
And we say thank you Alice, for your kind, gentle and prayerful spirit which we have witnessed and loved for these many years. We will miss you, but we will know in spirit, your presence and wisdom in our midst. You have been and are gift.
Sister Alice died as she lived quietly and peacefully. In reflecting on her life I believe Maxim 93 was fulfilled:
“For the three faculties of your soul desire this perfection: for the memory, to forget things and self in order to remember little else but God; for the intellect, to see God in all things: God’s glory, God’s will, and God’s contentment solely; for the will, the one freedom to go to God, to love God with all the love of your heart.”
Memorials for Sister Alice Marie may be given to the Sisters of St. Joseph Health Care/ Retirement Fund or the Apostolic Works of the Sisters; P.O Box 279, Concordia, KS 66901.
To make an online donation in Sister Alice Marie Stalker’s memory, click on the button below: