Read the memories shared at Sister Miriam's memorial Mass.
Thursday, September 23, 2021
Church of Our Lady of Loretto
Notre Dame, Indiana
Sister Miriam's memorial Mass was livestreamed. View the recorded service.
Tuesday, September 7, 2021
Gathering to Receive the Body: 3:30 p.m.
Church of Our Lady of Loretto
Notre Dame, Indiana
Immediately followed by the Rite of Committal with Final Commendation, Our Lady of Peace Cemetery
View the recorded service.
Sister Miriam Angela, CSC
(Mary Ellen Volkmer)
January 30, 1936–September 4, 2021
We share news of the death of Sister Miriam Angela (Volkmer), CSC, who died at 10:48 p.m. on September 4, 2021, at Memorial Hospital, South Bend, Indiana. Sister Miriam Angela entered the Congregation from Lincoln, Nebraska, on September 7, 1954. Her initial profession of vows took place on August 15, 1957.
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.
Being a good neighbor is more than a civic duty. “Love your neighbor as yourself” is a Christian responsibility (Matthew 19:19). Sister Miriam Angela’s vocation as a Sister of the Holy Cross for over 64 years involved more than being polite to the people next door.
Mary Ellen Volkmer was born in the village of Winnetoon, Nebraska, on January 30, 1936, to Veronica (Fritz) Volkmer and George H. Volkmer, both Nebraska natives. She had two brothers, Richard and Bernard. Their father was a chemist and teacher. Apparently, school systems did not place as high a priority on science teachers as they do today, for Mr. Volkmer moved his family quite a bit in pursuit of better paying positions. Mary Ellen attended at least seven schools by the time she completed her secondary education. Those frequent moves may have contributed to her characteristic shyness and reserve, always being the new kid on the block.
She first met the Sisters of the Holy Cross in Idaho at St. Joseph’s School in Pocatello in the upper grades, graduating from eighth grade in 1950. The family then moved farther west to Boise, where Holy Cross sisters, with whom she was familiar, sponsored St. Teresa’s Academy. Mary Ellen’s last two years of high school were back in Nebraska, this time in Lincoln. In 1954, she graduated from Cathedral High School, staffed by Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They fully supported Mary Ellen’s application for entrance to the Sisters of the Holy Cross that September. Even though Miss Volkmer began her formation at the motherhouse in yet another state, her home was now Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana. She received the name Sister Miriam Angela upon reception of the holy habit in August 1955 and retained her name throughout her life as a woman religious.
Sister Miriam Angela spent nearly 40 years in Catholic education in parochial schools throughout the United States, in the East and Midwest, as a teacher and principal. She no sooner professed her vows in August 1957 when she was missioned to teach children in primary grades. Not until 1967 did she earn her bachelor’s in music theory from Dunbarton College, Washington, D.C. In earlier years, ongoing classroom experience during the academic year was followed by summer collegiate coursework. Her master’s in science was in elementary education from Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska, in 1976. By all accounts, her real love was music, and she was adept at teaching music in the classroom even while principal. She also formed children’s choirs and produced musicals in which the children performed. Her last school assignments in Indiana were Notre Dame School in Michigan City, Indiana, 1975 to 1981, and St. Thomas the Apostle School in Elkhart, Indiana, 1983 to 1986. Then followed 12 years as principal at St. Mary’s School in Niles, Michigan, 1986 to 1998.
The only interruption in her school administration was from 1981 to 1983, when Sister Miriam Angela ministered to retired sisters as assistant superior at Our Lady of Holy Cross Convent in South Bend. She then transitioned back to education at St. Thomas the Apostle, followed by St. Mary’s School.
In her last year at St. Mary’s School, Sister Miriam Angela made the front page of the Niles Daily Star. The 62-year-old principal leans on one arm and is sitting on the floor with kindergarteners to watch them draw on a large piece of newsprint. The publicity shot promoted Catholic Schools Week, but the photograph was far from posed. The little girl leaning against Sister Miriam watches her classmates, and the two other children are equally oblivious of the camera. Their principal, short of stature herself, has made them feel safe, secure and at home. The article quotes Sister Miriam Angela explaining that Catholic schools, early in the history of the United States, helped welcome immigrant families and their children to the country. Parish schools were neighborhood schools that passed on the Catholic faith and values promoting good citizenship, such as liberty and justice for all.
Since 2006, Sister Miriam Angela has been a resident of a neighborhood on Portage Avenue in South Bend, Indiana, with Sister Mary Turgi, CSC. As often happens in the convent, community life sometimes leads to friendship. A March 2008 citizen award commends Sister Miriam Angela for being “as active as ever in her retirement—volunteering for the Near Northwest Neighborhood, Inc. for nearly two years; accompanying elderly members of the Sisters of the Holy Cross to medical appointments; maintaining an impeccable vegetable garden; and always providing compassion for stray neighborhood cats.” One of her volunteer activities was the annual neighborhood clean-up dubbed Adopt-A-Block. A photo in the South Bend Tribune shows Miriam in rain gear, gloves and hat, leaning over into the weeds in an alley. The headline reads, “Bad weather doesn’t stop beautification effort.”
It is not surprising that Sister Miriam, who loved nature and did her best to preserve life on planet Earth, requested a green burial in Our Lady of Peace Cemetery. A memorial Mass in Our Lady of Loretto Church at Saint Mary’s will follow at a later time. Sister Miriam had enjoyed singing in the Loretto Choir but had been absent for some time. Only a few might remember that Miriam was the head sacristan at Loretto, 1999 to 2005, and how she so enjoyed helping plan the liturgical life of the church community. Not only the sisters, but lay neighbors, participated fully in the Sunday Eucharist. “All Things Bright and Beautiful” by John Ritter is one of the hymns selected by Sister Miriam Angela for her funeral Mass.
This bright and beautiful spirit herself is now raising her glorious voice in the eternal presence of God, Mary and all the saints.
We invite you to donate to the Ministry With the Poor Fund in Sister’s name.
—Written by Sister Catherine Osimo, CSC