February 3, 1907 – June 16, 2001
“Happy are the pure of heart, for they will see God.” Matthew 5:8
Sister Aquilina during her long life was never found wanting in her wholeheartedness with God and with all with whom she was associated. Now that God has called her to heavenly beatitude, may she see God face to face.
Her birth was in a farmhouse between Nessen City and Thompsonville, two small towns in northern Michigan. Her father and mother, John and Marie Thayer Prevost, were the parents of eleven children of whom Sister was the youngest. At the time of her birth on February 3, 1907, six children had already died. At her Baptism at Holy Family Church, Nessen City, she was given the name of Catherine Marie. It was at this same church that she received her first Holy Communion, and was confirmed.
Marie began in a public school at Thompsonville at the age of six and continued there until she was in the tenth grade. Her life of faith was nurtured by the instruction and example of her father who became her closest friend and companion. What a carefree life she then lived! Happy were her years spent in the open fields and woods and working with her brothers. All nature was a precious school for her.
Marie’s life, however, was soon to change. Her mother, who had been paralyzed when Marie was two years old, became seriously ill and died when she was fourteen years of age. During the next few months she shared with her sister the responsibility of caring for a home. Eventually her father sold the farm, and Marie, along with her father, moved to Muskegon to live with her sister and her family. She was enrolled at St. Mary School where she was taught by our Sisters. She learned to love them and longed to join them, though she never mentioned it.
The desire to be a Sister had been sown long before by her father. She states this so beautifully in an early essay about her vocation. She wrote, “The seed of my vocation was planted as I walked beside my father in the fields and watched him make a big, beautiful Sign of the Cross and say a Hail Mary before each simple task of the day. It was nourished as I knelt beside him…” Three other people who were a tremendous help and influence in her decision to become a Grand Rapids Dominican were Father L.A. Nugent, C.SS.R., who gave a mission at St. Mary, Muskegon during her senior year, and Sisters Aquino Peterson and Kyran Moran, who were her teachers.
September 8, 1925 found Marie as a member of a large postulant class under Sister Loyola Finn’s direction. On August 26, 1926 she received St. Dominic’s white habit and the name of Sister Aquilina of the Blessed Trinity. Her First Profession of Vows was received by Mother Eveline Mackey on August 28, 1928. On August 28, 1934 she made her Final Profession.
She experienced her first mission life as a postulant at St. Andrew School. After profession she was to have a variety of experiences. Until 1930 she was an elementary teacher, the remainder of her forty-six years was spent teaching on the high school level. Her assignments, in addition to St. Andrew were to Marywood Academy; Santa Cruz, New Mexico; St. Mary, SS. Peter & Paul, and St. Joseph, Saginaw; Catholic Central, Grand Rapids; Maple Grove; and St. Francis, Traverse City. She spent twelve years at St. Joseph, Saginaw where along with her teaching she did considerable catechetical work. In a changing neighborhood Sister Aquilina was quick to respond to the needs of the African American and Mexican American families who were moving in to the parish. Twenty-three years were spent at Catholic Central, Grand Rapids, during what were some of CC’s “peak” years, for example, a Sister faculty of forty and a student enrollment of over two thousand prior to the opening of West Catholic in 1962. Her teaching specialties were science and math, and the students respected and loved her.
Always apostolic by nature, it was no wonder that when her classroom days terminated, she looked for a place to use her deep interest in pastoral work and religious education. For seven years she worked in the Thompsonville-Copemish area which she knew very well from her youth. Leaving there, she continued pastoral service by her activity and presence in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Grand Rapids, and at Rockford.
Sister Aquilina was an extraordinary person who by her quiet graciousness and availability made convent living pleasanter. Somehow she always managed a smile. Her greatest joy was serving people and, in particular, the poor and underprivileged. The woods, nature trails, hiking, reading, photography, and bird watching also gave her much joy. At the time of her Diamond Jubilee in 1986 she wrote, “If I have a hobby, it is walking in the woods. Nature in all its phases speaks to me. I feel a great communion with the universe when I am contemplating nature.”
By this favorite quotation she identified with St. Augustine, “In His will is our peace.” But perhaps more so with her dear father’s, “God knows best. His will be done.” – words, which Sister Aquilina states, were ever on his lips and in his heart.
Her Dominican vocation meant much to her and in a brief and recent biography she remarked, “I am very proud of my Dominican community and am deeply grateful for all the trust, love, and support it has given me.” In this her 75th Jubilee Year our Dominican community is grateful to Sister Aquilina for her many years of faithful, dedicated, fruitful, and loving service to the People of God. May she who was so instrumental in leading countless others to find God’s goodness and love now be welcomed into God’s eternal paradise of lasting peace.
Sister Aquilina is survived by several nieces, nephews, many friends and a loving community.
Entered eternal life on June 16, 2001 at the age of 94 after 75 years of religious life
We commend Sister Aquilina to your prayers.