November 21, 1907 – September 21, 1998
Sister Euphemia's love for her community was displayed by her presence at all events whenever possible and her dedication to our Dominican Motto, “To praise, to bless, and to preach.”
Sister Euphemia was a woman who loved God, life, and her community. Her love for God was shown by her living example of deep faith, love for the Eucharist, and prayer. Her love for life was demonstrated by accepting the many opportunities each day to enjoy whatever it might be: Traveling, playing cards, reading, taking a walk in the woods, going for a swim (especially in Lake Michigan), crocheting, writing poetry, or conversing on the issues of the present day. Sister used every opportunity to challenge others to seek God through prayer and many times helped them to turn to God or to return to God. She was ever willing to be challenged and ready to challenge others to stretch their minds, talents, and themselves to greater things. Hers was a life of great integrity, which was characterized by an honesty both straightforward and sincere.
Earthly life for her had its beginning when she was born the third oldest child of a family of two boys and two girls born to Paul and Agnes Marma Popell on the Feast of the Presentation of Mary, November 21, 1907 in Grand Rapids. Both of her parents had been born in Lithuania, and she treasured this heritage along with her beautiful Christian home. Another great blessing in her life was being a member of SS. Peter and Paul Lithuanian Parish where she was baptized and given the name of Mary Clare. She recalls her First Holy Communion as the happiest day of her life.
Mary was so eager to attend school that she accompanied her sister long before she was actually enrolled as a student. After completing grade school at SS. Peter and Paul, she had a varied experience in high school: Catholic Central and Union High in Grand Rapids for grade nine, St. Casimer Academy in Chicago for one semester in grade ten, and then Marywood Academy from which she was graduated in 1925.
Sister Euphemia states that from the time she could remember, she desired to be a Sister. Since the Grand Rapids Dominicans had been the dominant influence during her grade and high school years, it was natural that she chose to enter the convent at Marywood on September 18, 1925. As a member of a large class, she received St. Dominic’s white habit and the name Sister Euphemia of the Sacred Heart on August 24, 1926. Mother Benedicta O’Rourke was then the Prioress General. After two full and profitable years in the novitiate under the direction of Sister Loyola Finn and later Sister Jerome Smithers, Sister Euphemia made her First Profession of Vows on August 28, 1928 to Mother Eveline Mackey.
As a postulant Sister Euphemia had her first challenging mission experience: She was sent to Munger where she taught grades one to three in the morning and grades seven to nine in the afternoon! After Profession she embarked on a rich educational apostolate that was to encompass fifty-five years of fruitful dedication. Her assignments were to: St. Francis, Traverse City; Catholic Central, Grand Rapids; St. Joseph, St. Mary, and SS. Peter and Paul, Saginaw; Catholic Central, Muskegon; Marywood Academy; St. Joseph, Bay City; and Sacred Heart, Mr. Pleasant. For sixteen of her years in education she was an administrator, sometimes in addition to teaching. Also she had some interesting experiences: she was on the staff when Catholic Central, Muskegon opened its door in 1953; the principal at the newly constructed SS. Peter & Paul High School, Saginaw in 1956; and the Administrator-Principal at the newly consolidated All Saints High School in Bay City in 1968.
For approximately twenty-five years Sister Euphemia edited high school newspapers and yearbooks. Her commitment, however, was not limited to high school: For twelve summers she taught Latin and English at Aquinas College. Then, too, she never seemed to tire of attending summer school, workshops, and conventions. Even in her later years she continued her interest in student activities.
Sister Euphemia was a very fine teacher who through the teaching of literature in both Latin and English tried to raise the ideals of youth to greater heights by showing them the relevancy of great literature to all people at all times. She was also an excellent and forceful administrator, whose enthusiasm, exuberance, and energy never seemed to wane.
Home visiting with the elderly and sick was always one of Sister Euphemia’s apostolates. When Marywood became her residence in 1983, she faithfully spent one day a week at Aquinata Hall in pastoral ministry. She treasured her time with our Sisters, and she also appreciated what she termed “sabbatical time”—that is, more time for praying and reading. Likewise she had a great interest in others and had many wonderful friends. Her family was always very close to her; she had a special spiritual bond with her brother, Msgr. Charles Popell.
In a brief autobiographical sketch which Sister Euphemia wrote in 1979, she stated, “I have much for which to be grateful to my Community. If I have failed in any way and have hurt my Community or any individual Sister, I humbly ask forgiveness and remembrance in prayer.”
A sustaining passage for Sister Euphemia was from Isaiah, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine” (43:1). Sister Euphemia has now experienced God’s final call! May she now enjoy in the kingdom of the redeemed the never ending glories of Christ’s triumphal Resurrection, and be greeted at heaven’s portal by our Blessed Mother for whom she had a tender love and devotion.
Sister Euphemia is survived by her niece Marianne Loftus of Winnetka, Illinois and nephew, Charles Jonaitis of Tucson, Arizona, several grandnieces and nephews, and many friends.
Entered eternal life on September 21, 1998 at the age of 90 after 72 years of religious life
We commend Sister Euphemia to your prayers.