February 25, 1911 – November 18, 1999
In an article, Sister Anselma wrote, “I often tell God, ‘I know in whom I place my trust forever. I am sure of God’s great love. Yes, God will keep my heart ‘til the day He comes’.”
When the Lord came on November 18, 1999 to take Sister Anselma HOME, we know that He found a heart filled with goodness and love for well did her kind, gentle, quiet, and loving disposition image that of her provident God.
It was in the rural area of New Salem, Michigan on February 25, 1911 that Sister Anselma became the seventh of eight children, four girls and four boys, born to Joseph and Katherine Weber. The Weber home was a faith-filled one and on March 5, 1911 their newborn child was baptized at St. Mary Church and received the name of Irma Madelyn. When Irma began school, she was fortunate to have our own Sisters for teachers at St. Mary School, and she had fond memories of them.
One dominant influence on Irma’s life was her father’s brother, a Franciscan priest, who spent many years of his life in New Mexico and Arizona ministering to the Navaho people. Frequently he visited the Weber home. Irma was only ten years old when he died, but at that time the seeds of a religious vocation were planted, and her great desire was to be a Sister. At thirteen years of age, she spoke to her pastor about it, and he told her to wait until she was eighteen! When she finished the eighth grade, her desire to enter the Convent was very great. The Sisters, her dear parents and her family were pleased with her decision, and her pastor, too, finally acquiesced. St. Therese, the Little Flower, played an important role in all this.
On September 7, 1926, at the age of fifteen, Irma entered Marywood. She received the Holy Habit of St. Dominic on August 23, 1927 and the name of Sister Anselma of Our Lady of the Rosary – both the name and the title were significant: Anselma in memory of her deceased Franciscan uncle, Father Anselm and “of the Holy Rosary” because of the devotion to the Rosary her mother had taught her. On August 29, 1929 Sister made her first profession of vows and on August 30, 1935 her final vows. Both were made to Mother Eveline Mackey.
In the same article already cited, Sister Anselma wryly quoted Psalm 71: “Give me time to tell this new generation about your power and goodness.” Those of us, who knew Sister well, know that she would be the last one to be boastful of herself, but like St. Paul she was ready to acclaim the work of God in her. For fifty-five years, Sister Anselma served faithfully and well in the mission apostolate: Forty-five years teaching children from kindergarten to grade six, and then another ten years in pastoral ministry. In addition to teaching, for seventeen years of her earlier assignments she was also the parish organist and was able to use her beautiful singing voice to enhance the Liturgy. Her assignments took her to many places in Michigan and among them were: Alpine; Suttons Bay; North Dorr; Hannah; St. Joseph and St. Alphonsus, Grand Rapids; St. Mary, Muskegon; Mt. Pleasant; Holy Family, Saginaw; St. Charles; and Muskegon Heights.
In 1972 when Sister Anselma’s own sister became a patient in a medical facility, she realized the importance of pastoral care. The following year at St. Alphonsus she spent a half of her day in the classroom and the remainder of her day in pastoral care. In no time the list of visiting fifteen elderly her first year there multiplied many times during the eleven years she spent at St. Alphonsus. Her ministry soon extended to Kent Community Hospital and the Leonard-Terrace Apartments. In writing of this she stated, “The greatest reward that I received in working with the elderly has been being the instrument used by God to lead a goodly number of those not practicing their faith back to God and His church as they slowly but steadily continued walking in their twilight hours toward Home.” In 1979 Sister Anselma was one of thirty-three women selected by the Women’s Resource Center of Grand Rapids to be part of an exhibit of words and photographs at Eastbrook Mall depicting women’s opportunities.
Sister Anselma was never strong physically, but in 1984 a heart condition developed which did not permit her to continue walking to visit her friends. She moved to the House of Studies for almost a year and then Aquinata Hall became her residence. Here she continued her fruitful pastoral ministry to our own Sisters to the extent that her own health permitted.
“How precious is your constant love, O God” was one of her favorite scripture passages and well did he reciprocate that love by being a wonderful example of the values we Dominicans hold in high esteem: Fidelity to prayer, study, ministry, and the common life. To know Sister Anselma was to love her, and to have lived with her was indeed a privilege. She concluded her autobiography with the following, “Before closing this account of God’s goodness to me, I want to ask pardon of all whom I may have offended knowingly or unknowingly, and I ask the Sisters to remember in their prayers one who considers it a great privilege to be a Marywood Dominican.”
We thank God that Sister Anselma was called to the Dominican Way of Life. May her fruitful years as a Dominican now merit for her the joys of life eternal with her God, Our Blessed Mother, and all the Blessed.
Sister Anselma is survived by her brother Norman Weber of Tuson, Arizona, many nieces, nephews, and friends.
Entered eternal life on November 18, 1999 at the age of 88 after 72 years of religious life
We commend Sister Anselma to your prayers.