August 24, 1889 – March 3, 1977
Hedwig Steinforth was born in Essen, Germany, on August 24, 1899, the fifth of six children born to Wilhelm and Wilhelmine Steinforth. Not much is recorded of Hedwig’s life prior to 1923 when she left Germany to live in Chicago, except that she had received her nurses’ training in Duesseldorf, Rhineland, in a hospital conducted by Dominican Sisters. Upon her arrival in Chicago, Hedwig found a good home in a Catholic family in Lake Forest, Illinois. Caring for their three children gave her an opportunity to improve her English so she would be able to go back to hospital work.
In order to become a Registered Nurse in America, she took up one year of refresher work at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Chicago, and graduated in June 1926. After an extended visit to Germany in 1927, Hedwig returned in 1930 to the United States and became an American citizen.
On September 6, 1932, Hedwig Steinforth entered the convent as a postulant at Marywood in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She received the habit in 1933, taking the name of Sister Cristopher of the Infant Jesus. After her profession in 1935, Sister Christopher served in the Marywood Infirmary caring for the sick.
Sister Christopher was assigned to St. Joseph Seminary in 1936, and for the next thirty-three years cared for students and future priests. This service she considered a great privilege. In her Autobiographical Data Sheet submitted earlier this year, Sister Christopher summed up her life and activities in our Dominican Community in this way:
. . . taking car of the sick in the seminary for 33 years. Those were happy years – being a mother to those boys.
Sister had many happy memories but one of her happiest was the blessing and dedication of the Christopher House, the residence of the College Seminarians of the Diocese of Grand Rapids. In the program for the occasion of the blessing and dedication of Christopher House on April 12, 1970, we find this note:
In a very special way we dedicate (this house) to the person who gave us our new name, Sister Mary Christopher Steinforth, OP, who has given many years of service to the Seminary. And in the St. Joseph Seminary Yearbook of 1970 we read:
Our Seminary Family will never forget the joy, love, and understanding that was the lifestyle of Sister Christopher. She remains in the hearts of every one of us and will be always remembered as truly, A Christ-Bearer.
Failing health forced Sister Christopher to give up her duties at St. Joseph Seminary and to retire to Marywood in January of 1970. Sister Christopher moved to Aquinata Hall in the fall of 1973 where she remained until her death on March 3, 1977. Since Sister had been very ill these past few months, the news of her death was received with a prayer of thanksgiving that at last she was freed from suffering. May the angels lead you into paradise, Sister Christopher. May the martyrs await your coming and escort you to Jerusalem, the holy city. May you rest in peace!
About fifty priests attended Sister Christopher’s funeral liturgy. Among the concelebrants were:
Most Rev. James A. Hickey
Most Rev. James S. Sullivan
Msgr. Joseph E. Shaw
Msgr. James P. Moran
Msgr. Edmund F. Palicki
Rev. Basil Boyd, OP
Rev. Anthony C. Valnavicz
Rev. Michael A. Danner
Rev. Robert J. Rose
Rev. James C. Cusack
Rev. Theodore J. Kozlowski
Assisting the priests at the altar was Deacon Steven Cron.
Music was provided by the seminarians at St. Joseph Seminary, Grand Rapids, and Christopher House.
Entered eternal life on March 3, 1977 at the age of 77 after 45 years of religious life
We commend Sister Christopher to your prayers