May 13, 1911 – August 20, 1994
At Christ's last discourse to His disciples before His death, He left them with this consoling promise, “I am indeed going to prepare a place for you, and then I shall come back to take you with me . . .” John 14:3-4
On August 20th this promise was actualized for Sister Cecelia, our Lord’s good and faithful disciple.
Anna Cecelia Popp was born in Lake Leelanau, Michigan on May 13, 1911. She became the ninth of thirteen children, seven boys and six girls, born to Joseph and Anna Barry Popp. In writing about her birth Sister Cecelia stated, “Although I was the ninth child I was most welcome, for are not all children received with great joy as God’s most precious gift in the ideal Catholic home?”
At St. Mary Parish, Lake Leelanau on May 28, 1911 she was baptized and given the name of Anna Cecelia. She also made her First Holy Communion at St. Mary and on July 18, 1920 was confirmed by Bishop E. C. Kelly. At the age of six Cecelia began her education at St. Mary School where she had our Sisters whom she loved very much for teachers.
After Cecelia completed high school at St. Mary School, she attended Leelanau County Normal School at Northport for one year, then she taught in a rural school near her home. It was this teaching experience and preparing the little ones after school for First Holy Communion that helped her make two decisions: become a teacher and enter the Grand Rapids Dominicans. Her sister, Mary (Sister Joseph Ann), had already entered the Congregation.
Sister Cecelia entered our Community on September 8, 1933, and was assigned to teach grade three at St. Andrew School in Grand Rapids. On August 21, 1934 she received the Holy Habit of St. Dominic and the name of Sister Gilbert of Our Blessed Lady, the name which she had until 1976 when she returned to her Baptismal name. She made her First Profession in 1936 and her Final Profession in 1939, both to Mother Euphrasia Sullivan.
Sister Cecelia and her companions became known as “the class of lovely girls.” Not only were they lovely, but steadfast and persevering – they numbered nineteen at Reception and nineteen at Final Profession.
After two years of novitiate, Sister Cecelia taught for almost forty years as a religious. She taught kindergarten to grade twelve inclusive, but junior high and high school were the levels at which she spent most of her teaching years. She was very versatile in her teaching, with home economics, religion, history, and English as her main fields of expertise. For several of the forty years, she had the added responsibility of administration in the school and the convent.
Her teaching assignments took her to the following places: St. Andrew, Marywood, and Catholic Central, Grand Rapids; St. Joseph, Saginaw; Beaver Island; Beal City; Mt. Pleasant; St. Joseph, Bay City; and Maple Grove. It was at Beaver Island where Sister Cecelia spent thirteen happy and fruitful years and gave her best.
Formal classroom teaching for Sister Cecelia ended in 1974. She then spent two years at Merrill in pastoral ministry and religious education; three years as a member of our Community Pre-retirement and Retirement Team; and eleven years at West Branch in pastoral ministry where she used her many talents in diverse ways. In 1990 due to poor health, Sister Cecelia came to Marywood, but she was not idle. She was one of the three Sisters who staffed the Prayer and Listening Line and gave part-time pastoral service at Aquinata Hall.
Sister Cecelia was an all around person who was very conscientious in performing her assigned duties. Likewise, she was an excellent seamstress, cook, and entertainer who was ever ready to help others. She had a great love of nature and the outdoors. Perhaps the secret of her wonderful disposition, her dedicated religious life, and concern for others stemmed from her complete detachment. Her favorite saying, “This, too, shall pass,” was indicative of her calm under difficult and trying situations.
Sister Cecelia had many friends, and she loved her family of whom she was justly proud. From this wonderful Popp family, not only did Sister Joseph Ann and Sister Cecelia enter our Community, but also Sister Eileen, the youngest member of the family and later two nieces, Sisters Ottilia and Charlotte Schaub joined the Congregation.
Her Dominican vocation, community living, shared prayers, shared interests and shared home responsibilities were most important to Sister Cecelia. Now, in Jesus, God has called her to a new community life – eternal life with the Triune God, our Blessed Mother, and all the Saints. May she enjoy God’s peace, love, joy, and beauty. Alleluia!
Sister Cecelia is survived by her sister, Sister Eileen Popp of Grand Rapids, her brothers Arthur (Ruth) of Plainwell, Michigan and Walter of Schoolcraft, Michigan; her nieces Sisters Charlotte Schaub of Santa Cruz, New Mexico and Sister Ottilia Schaub of Grand Rapids, many other nieces and nephews and many friends.
Entered eternal life on August 20, 1994 at the age of 83 after 60 years of religious life
We commend Sister Cecelia to your prayers.