Sister M. Alberta, CSC
(Mildred Louise Zimmer)
May 6, 1927 – November 27, 2020
Word has been received of the death of Sister M. Alberta (Zimmer), CSC, who died at 4:45 a.m. on November 27, 2020, in Rosary Convent, Notre Dame, Indiana. Sister Alberta entered the Congregation from Danville, Illinois, on July 31, 1945. Her initial profession of vows took place on February 2, 1948.
Please join us in prayer for Sister as we renew our faith in the resurrected Jesus and strengthen our hope that all the departed will be raised to eternal life.
Early in the morning on the day after Thanksgiving Sister M. Alberta (Zimmer) died suddenly in Rosary Convent, Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana. News of her death at 93 years old left at least one novice in tears who admired Sister’s direct, straight-talking manner. One would have thought that the young woman from Ghana, in training to be a Sister of the Holy Cross, would have given little thought to the older American sister. Yet the attraction was Sister’s practical wisdom and spirituality of an elder in a community of women, who proved to be faithful, constant and true to her word and commitment—forever. Youth need models such as Sister Alberta.
Mildred Louise Zimmer was born in Danville, Illinois, on May 6, 1927, of Theresa R. Glueck and John W. Zimmer, both Illinois natives. Mildred was the middle child, the fourth of six living children. Her brothers were Paul, Roger and Daniel. Her sisters were Florence and Barbara Ann. Sister’s birth certificate indicates that their father was a laborer. “Laborer” glosses over that John Zimmer worked by the sweat of his brow during the Great Depression as a metal worker at a rolling mill run by Hegeler Zinc Company. It is likely that Sister Alberta developed her interest in physics, chemistry and mathematics growing up in northern Illinois, where towns were economically dependent on slab zinc produced at the largest manufacturing plant of its kind in the United States. A gas plant and an open pit coal mine were also part of the site’s operations. The heavy air pollution most likely contributed early on to Mildred’s low-grade chronic health issues, which she later brought with her to the convent.
Mildred knew the Sisters of the Holy Cross who taught at St. Patrick’s Elementary School in Danville. Upon graduation in 1941 she enrolled at the sisters’ Saint Mary’s Academy at their motherhouse in Notre Dame, Indiana, but quickly left after one year and transferred to Danville High School back home. One guesses that the future Sister Alberta did not care for the discipline and high expectations of a high school run like a convent. As many of her generation, she had part-time jobs while attending high school, working as a waitress at S.S. Kresge and packing product at a candy company and a photo shop.
After graduation Mildred Zimmer entered the Sisters of the Holy Cross on July 31, 1945. Upon reception of the holy habit on February 2, 1946, she received her new name in religion, Sister Mary Alberta. One assumes that the patron saint of natural scientists, Saint Albert the Great, was chosen for her because of her own affinity for science. Sister Alberta earned a Bachelor of Science in 1959 and a master’s degree in physical sciences in 1967, both from the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. Sister Alberta spent more than 20 years as a science and math teacher in Catholic education from 1948 to 1971, six years in Catholic elementary schools and 15 years in secondary schools in Indiana, Michigan and Illinois. She believed “Since God is ultimate Truth, teaching the truths of Science will bring [students] closer to God.” However, Sister was glad to leave the classroom and never missed it. It is likely that by 1971 she had little patience with the modern sensibilities of adolescents or how to reach them at the height of the Vietnam War with its social unrest and mistrust of authority.
At 44 years old, Sister Alberta asked to pursue training in computer science, thinking that she might find a place to use her new skills in a Holy Cross-sponsored hospital. After she completed intensive IBM courses successfully during an internship at Holy Cross Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah, Sister M. Gerald (Hartney), general treasurer, secured Sister Alberta’s assignment to Holy Cross Shared Services for internal ministry, where she directed and managed data processing at the motherhouse for 25 years from 1971 to 1996. A year of spiritual renewal followed with a sabbatical at Gonzaga University’s Credo Program of Religious Studies in Spokane, Washington, culminating in a visit to the Holy Land. One of her most memorable experiences was the day she and others sailed on the Sea of Galilee. Though she never walked on water that day, she brought back with her the sabbatical’s promotion of walking for spiritual, mental and physical health.
Sister Alberta then served six years as the assistant superior at Saint Mary’s Convent, Notre Dame, after which she asked in 2003 to retire and help out at Saint Catherine by the Sea convent, Ventura, California, where she could be closer to family who lived in the West. While in Ventura she was a driver and did the house accounts. In early 2011 Sister Alberta returned to Saint Mary’s and actively participated in community life. Until a year ago Sister was one of a few who had operated the camera to televise Masses in the Church of Our Lady of Loretto via the closed-circuit television system to sisters too infirm to attend. She passed her skills on, alternating with a newcomer, then took ill about a month ago.Sister Alberta trained her scientific skills of observation on both the natural world and the persons around her. She took your measure and sized you up quickly. Yet she was selective in sharing personal information in forms and questionnaires, though appreciative for opportunities afforded her in the Congregation. To one regional superior she wrote, “I am very grateful, but I don’t know how to express myself. Perhaps by the way I pray, work and live in general, I will show my deep-felt gratitude. God has been very good to me.” Sister Alberta received Communion in her room on Thanksgiving morning. Now she is fully united with the Risen Christ. God is good.
We invite you to donate to the Ministry With the Poor Fund in Sister’s name.
—Written by Sister Catherine Osimo, CSC