MAy 26, 1899 – July 17, 1999
Sister Theodota waited in trusting hope, and continued to pray “Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done.”
Always slight of stature Sister Theodota Mercier of Our Lady of the Rosary seems to have been moved by the Spirit as was Zacchaeus. At the age of three, with her family, she hurried from her birthplace in Ontario, Canada, to Alpena and later to Flint to respond to Christ’s personal invitation “to come down.” The way was winding, at times difficult, but, as she once wrote “I was pursued by the Hound of Heaven.” On February 5, 1924 she was led to Grand Rapids and the Marywood Dominican Sisters. On the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee in 1985 she wrote: “I just thank God for my vocation, for my understanding family, for the wonderful Sisters I have met along the way, and for my Dominican Community.” After laboring in the Lord’s Vineyard for 72 years, experiencing a variety of ministries, on July 17, 1999 she heard and welcomed the final invitation, “Come, enter the joys of the Kingdom.”
Her father, Adelore Mercier, born in Canada, as a young man immigrated to the United States, settling near Alpena. He met and married Mary Blais; they made their home in Herron, Michigan except for a few years living in Canada. The older and younger children were born in Michigan but Isabelle Rose was born May 26, 1899 during this Canadian residence.
Her elementary education was received in the local public school except for the time at St. Anne’s, Alpena where she prepared for First Holy Communion. In May 1911, after a prolonged illness, her father died leaving her mother with four children, the oldest then fourteen. Isabelle attended Business College in Alpena and obtained work in Flint. When Edmund, the oldest boy, married, her mother sold the farm and with Arthur and Evelyn joined Isabelle. The family was again together, but only for a few years. As a small child Isabelle Rose had been impressed by the beautiful statue of St. Rose of Lima in the parish church. At the age of ten she had met her first living Dominican Sister when Sister Alban Fredette from Marywood attended her parents’ Jubilee celebration. It was then that she decided that she, too, would be a Sister. Finally, with the help of Sister Florentine she made the final preparations to enter the convent. Later she said, “It was a difficult decision to make, especially as it grieved my mother. I broke the family circle by leaving for Grand Rapids February 5, 1924. Looking back I can see that I did not make a mistake in coming to Marywood.”
Sister Theodota’s teaching apostolate began as a postulant when she was assigned to teach grades 1-2 at St. Andrew’s, Grand Rapids. After her canonical year she continued teaching elementary grades for seven more years at Suttons Bay, St. Mary’s, Saginaw, and San Juan in Chemita, New Mexico. She loved teaching these little children, but because of her training and experience in the business world she was asked to teach commercial subjects in high school. To her joy her first assignment was to Holy Cross, Santa Cruz where she remained for seven happy years. With her teaching load she managed to teach CCD classes in Espanola and at Santa Cruz was known to help out by playing the organ in church. During these years in New Mexico, Sister continued her college education in Albuquerque and Las Vegas and for three summers attended Incarnate Word College in San Antonio, Texas. The Annals relate the enjoyable outings, happy festive celebrations and exchange visits among the convents. Sister’s quiet manner did not hide her sense of humor nor her spirit of generosity. Her sparkling eyes and warm smile added welcome and friendliness at any gathering.
At the end of the school year 1939-40 Sister Theodota returned to Michigan and divided her time between going to college and teaching. She earned the Master’s Degree in Religious Education at Aquinas College; she was granted the Master’s Degree by DePaul University in 1969. She continued teaching commercial subjects at St. Mary’s, Saginaw, Girls’ Catholic Central, Grand Rapids, and, interrupted by only one year at St. Joseph’s, Bay City, her longest assignment of twenty-nine years at SS. Peter and Paul High School, Saginaw. At their Honors Assembly on May 29, 1974 Sister Theodota was escorted to the stage, presented with a dozen red roses and a silver pen, given a standing ovation and open house for her that evening. Articles appeared in the local papers; the Saginaw News had a half page feature story with large pictures. All this shows a high appreciation of her contribution to Catholic Education. Sister did not speak of plans for the future or of retirement.
Did Sister Theodota ever retire? Arriving at Marywood she immediately took on clerical work for the FLTL team and also for those writing the History of the Community. In 1977 she was missioned at St. Michael’s, Maple Grove as bursar for the convent and pastoral ministry for the parish. In March 1978 she was given Retired Status, but the next year found her as companion to Sister Ignatia at South Colony Place, Saginaw, engaged in Senior Citizen ministry. However, her health necessitated a move to the House of Studies by January of the next year. In December 1980 she was appointed to clerical work for the Vocation Formation office on a part-time basis. The closing of the House of Studies brought the big move to Marywood. In June 1988 Sister Carmelita Murphy granted her request to take up residence at Aquinata Hall. An active member on the third floor, she took part in the programs and classes there. Through the years she had served the Lord by service to God’s people. During this time with added opportunities for reading, prayer and contemplation, she seemed gradually to realize more and more that it is not how much we do but rather what God accomplishes through us that is all important.
Sister Theodota is survived by nieces, nephews and many friends.
Entered eternal life on July 17, 1999 at the age of 100 after 72 years of religious life
We comend Sister Theodota to your prayers.