December 4, 1897- March 26, 1998
Sister Mary Andrew, the sacred time has now come for God to “raise you up.” We rejoice with you for now you can so appropriately voice, “O God, I will sing a new song to you; with a ten-stringed lyre I will chant your praise (Psalm 144:9).
On March 26, 1998 when Sister Mary Andrew’s call for eternity came, the Lord found her waiting fervently. For many years she had prayed, “O God, my heart is ready; I will sing, sing your praise” (Ps. 108). At last she was to experience the fullness of joy in seeing the face of the Lord and joining in the celestial choir.
This great lover of art and music was born in Muskegon before the turn of the century on December 4, 1897. Her parents, Joseph and Mary Rose Szturmowska, had migrated from Poland to Muskegon where they married and became the devoted parents of five girls and four boys. Sister Mary Andrew, who was the second youngest in the family, was baptized at St. Joseph Church on December 26, 1897 and given the name of Victoria. She loved to boast that her godfather was Archbishop Edmund Szoka’s grandfather and that she was her father’s favored golden haired girl.
For kindergarten and grade one Victoria attended public school. She also attended St. Joseph’s School, St. Jean’s School and the Ursuline Academy taught by the Ursuline Sisters, who also staffed St. Jean’s School. While a student here she started music and French lessons and singing in the choir. When St. Jean’s School became too crowded with Polish students, she reluctantly transferred to St. Mary’s School.
The joy-filled early years of Victoria’s life in her exemplary Christian home changed drastically when her dear Father was killed in a work accident. At the time her baby brother was only ten months old. Sister Mary Andrew later in life was to express her great admiration for her Mother for not only keeping the large family together, but also for her wonderful care, management, and guidance. Another tragedy was to occur four years after the father’s death when the oldest boy in the family, who was the main supporter of the family, died after a brief illness.
At the time of Victoria’s First Holy Communion and Confirmation in May 1910 she began to give serious consideration to religious life. Just a year prior to this her brother Edward had entered the Seminary and her sister Rose (Sister Edward), eight years her senior, had entered the Grand Rapids Dominicans. Desirous as Victoria was to become a Sister, it was inevitable that she was needed at home to support her mother and two brothers, and so for three years she was employed at Mercy Hospital. At fourteen her Pastor at the newly founded Polish Parish of St. Michael sent her to take a few organ lessons from the Notre Dame Sisters at St. Adalbert’s in Grand Rapids, and Victoria became the first organist at St. Michael.
The suppressed desire to become a religious never left Victoria. At eighteen years of age she summoned up enough courage to ask her mother if she could enter, and the mother’s response was WAIT. When Victoria was nineteen her mother gave her permission to enter. Though Victoria had a great respect for both the Ursuline and Mercy Sisters, “an interior voice called her to St. Dominic’s Sisters.” September 7, 1917 she entered the Dominicans at St. John’s Home. She received the habit from Mother Gonsalva Bankstahl on March 7, 1918, and the name of Sister Mary Andrew of the Apostles. Sister Mary Andrew made her First Profession on August 4, 1921.
Two days after her Reception Sister Mary Andrew was on her way to St. Augustine School in Boyne Falls. It was a train ride she always vividly remembered. A terrible snow storm was raging and instead of getting to Boyne Falls on Saturday, the day they left, they were stranded enroute and did not get to their destination until Monday. It was the first time in her life that she had ever missed Mass. At Boyne Falls she taught grades 2 and 5, Polish, and gave music lessons after school.
Sister Mary Andrew’s mission assignments continued for over fifty years. She states in her autobiography, “With music as my life work, life has been one constant symphony. Seems I never tired teaching grade school music, choirs, high school Glee Clubs and adult choirs. Leisure hours were packed full of teaching piano, violin, voice, melodica, recitals galore, and auditions for ratings with the National Guild of Piano Teachers, and various plays.” Some copies of Sister’s compositions for choral work and orchestration are fittingly “housed” in the music cabinet that came from the Traverse City Cradle and which is now in the Heritage Room.
Sister’s assignments took her to many places. She served the most years at: St. Mary, Gaylord; St. Alphonsus and Catholic Junior College, Grand Rapids; St. Mary Carson City; St. Joseph, Bay City; St. Francis, Traverse City; St. Mary, Muskegon; and St. Joseph, West Branch.
Active as Sister Mary Andrew’s life was, she was never too busy for prayer, for prayer was always a number one priority with her. She had an intense love for the Mass, the Holy Eucharist, and Our Blessed Mother and the rosary.
In 1971 Sister Mary Andrew retired to the House of Studies. She continued giving a few vocal and piano lessons, pursued art and other classes for her own enrichment and tended her gorgeous rose bushes. Sister Mary Andrew became a resident at Aquinata Hall in April 1985.
Sister Mary Andrew states in her autobiography, “ I have never regretted my entrance into the Convent and have the record of being the first communicant, the first organist, and the first Sister from St. Michael’s, Muskegon. I have yet to be the first SAINT. . . . We just continue to forge ahead, until such time as God see fit to RAISE US UP.
Sister Mary Andrew is survived by several nieces, nephews and many friends.
Entered eternal life on March 26, 1998 at the age of 100 after 80 years of religious life.
We commend Sister Mary Andrew to your prayers.