April 30, 1920 – March 14, 2001
“I have called you by name. You are mine.” Isaiah 43:1
This was one of Sister Michaela’s favorite Scripture quotes. Truly Sister Michaela was God’s treasure from her conception in her mother’s womb. And now that God has called her to fullness of life for all eternity, she is God’s in a very special and extraordinary relationship. Her name is written in the book of life with those of all the saints in glory.
This precious life had its beginning in James Township, Saginaw, Michigan on April 30, 1920 when she became the sixth of ten children born to Michael and Margaret Doerr Schrems. The family lived on a farm and this was a means of knitting them in very close bonds. Since no Catholic school was available, the Schrems’ Christian home in a special way nurtured the rich Catholic faith that permeated the family. They did attend Saturday religion classes at Ss. Peter and Paul Church. She was baptized there on May 16, 1920, at which time she was given the name of Dorothy Theresa. It was also at Ss. Peter and Paul on November 5, 1934 that she was confirmed by Bishop Joseph Pinten.
At age six school life began for Theresa with the Beginners Class at the Pokagon School in James Township. In 1934 she entered Ss. Peter and Paul High School, where she was taught by our Sisters.
When she was only thirteen, her dear father died and this left her mother with a family of eight children. Her brother Elmer, then only sixteen, took full charge of their one hundred twenty-acre farm. The entire family worked in the fields to keep down expenses and make ends meet. Father Vincent Heaphy was among the first to encourage her to think about a religious vocation in her sophomore year and also again after her graduation. Father Ralph Richards, associate pastor at Ss. Peter and Paul, also encouraged her. Their interest helped her with this important decision.
On September 8, 1939 she entered Marywood postulate with Sister Leonora Gallagher in charge. Sister Fabian MacDonald was her novice mistress and on August 17, 1940 she received the habit of St. Dominic and was given the name of Sister Michaela of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Her First Profession of Vows was made to Mother Euphrasia Sullivan on August 18, 1941. On August 18, 1944 she made her Final Profession.
Sister Michaela ministered in Catholic schools for over fifty years as an elementary teacher, administrator, and librarian. Her apostolic labors began at Sacred Heart, Muskegon Heights, and terminated at St. Thomas, Grand Rapids where she spent eleven years as school librarian. In between these two assignments, she was stationed at St. Thomas, Grand Rapids (as a teacher); St. Alfred, Taylor Center; St. Boniface, Bay City; St. Francis Cabrini, Allen Park; Holy Rosary Academy, Bay City; Holy Trinity, Alpine; St. Mary, Gaylord, and St. Joseph the Worker, Beal City. When quite a young Sister she was assigned to Holy Rosary Academy as Prioress. Later she was the convent and school administrator at Holy Trinity, Alpine. For twelve years she was elementary principal at Gaylord. During some of her years at Gaylord, she was also a full or part-time classroom teacher. In all these places she did a superb job.
She had two unique experiences. Anyone cognizant of the mushrooming of the schools in the Detroit Archdiocese in the 1950’s would understand two challenges that were Sister Michaela’s. In 1946 she was one of the pioneers assigned to St. Alfred, Taylor Center. At first the church, school, and hall were housed in army barracks that were purchased from the Willow Run Air Base. During her last year there, the Sisters likewise occupied a barracks for their Convent! In 1952 she was one of the pioneer Sisters to staff St. Francis Cabrini in Allen Park. Since our Community, however, did not have sufficient Sisters to staff this fast-growing school, we were replaced by a community from the East that had ample vocations. The Detroit missions, were not her only unique experiences. In 1959 the Alpine Convent annals read, “New in the history of Holy Trinity. Alpine has a private telephone, with an extension upstairs. Wonders never cease!”
Sister Michaela was a people person who was a warm individual for whom the parents and students had great respect. In 1975 she was given special recognition when the Gaylord Community Schools jointly with St. Mary School had the first award’s dinner to honor people who had given much to the up-building of the Gaylord Community. At this dinner, Sister Michaela was cited for outstanding contributions to the Community in the field of education and in general support of all Community projects.
Things just did not happen in her administrative duties. She expended countless efforts “to run a good school.” One unobtrusive means she used was sprinkling every school corridor with Holy Water prior to the occupants’ arrival!
A description in one of the convent annals depicts Sister Michaela very well. The annalist wrote, “Sister Michaela is a prayerful woman. She is smilingly ready to accommodate any or all at any time. Her strenuous duties as grade principal are born with equanimity and not transferred. She is truly a woman of God who endeavors to be all things to all at all times!”
When assigned to Grand Rapids in 1982, Sister Michaela felt privileged to attend classes at Aquinas Emeritus College. In 1991 she was given a certificate for attending classes for one hundred clock hours. Sister had many talents and her reputation for her artistic talents is well known. Her work in calligraphy was especially beautiful. One apostolate she was involved in for several years at St. Thomas was Stephen Ministry, through which she effectively brought solace to the grieving.
At the time of her Golden Jubilee in 1990 Sister Michaela wrote, “I am grateful to God for my parents who had a deep faith, for my family, for the love and dedication of our Dominican Community, and for all who have helped me become who I am. May God who has begun this work in me bring it to completion.” God has indeed brought the beautiful and dedicated life of Sister Michaela to completion. May she who brought much beauty and joy to the lives of others by her life and gifts, now know and experience the manifold works of the Creator in a new and never-ending way. ALLELUIA!
Sister is survived by her sister Myrtle, Mrs. Robert Schmidt of Sylvan Lake, MI; her brothers Elmer and George both of Saginaw, MI; her brother-in-law Thomas Kennelly of Hemlock, MI; nieces, nephews, friends and a loving community.
Entered eternal life on March 14, 2001 at the age of 80 after 60 years of religious life
We commend Sister Michaela to your prayers.