March 23, 1906 – August 8, 2000
At the time of her Diamond Jubilee in 1985 Sister Vera wrote, “ ‘to give and not to count the cost, to labor and to seek for no reward’ is the motto I try to live by daily, but all too often fail!”
We who knew Sister well know that she most admirably lived her motto to the full, and God, for whom she lived, suffered, and labored so unselfishly, has called her HOME to receive the reward of eternal life.
Earthly life for Sister Vera began in Saginaw on March 23, 1906, when she became the fourteenth of Robert and Ellen Schmeck’s fifteen children. It was at SS. Peter and Paul Church that she was baptized and received the name of Vera Cecilia. She relates that being the youngest girl of the family she had somewhat her own way, but not to the degree that she was spoiled.
When Vera was five, her older sister took her to SS. Peter and Paul School to enter the first grade, and she was told to go to kindergarten. Instead she enrolled for grade one at the Jerome Public School and came through with flying colors and here she remained until the fourth grade. She then went to SS. Peter and Paul Grade and High School from which she graduated in 1924. A date Vera remembered well was May 12, 1916, the day she made her First Holy Communion and was confirmed by Bishop Michael J. Gallagher.
During the latter part of her senior year Vera began to think of her future, and she always felt indebted and grateful to Sister Flavian Murphy who encouraged her to consider religious life. Vera prayed to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, received our dear Lord in the Blessed Sacrament every Sunday, and attended daily Mass. Vera could not wait the whole year, and decided to enter on February 2, 1925; her father who was not a Catholic was not pleased with her decision. Nevertheless, he became reconciled and was to come to the realization that his daughter had chosen “the better part.” Later he embraced the Catholic Faith.
Vera had Sister Loyola Finn for her postulant and novice mistress. The happy and anticipated day for reception into the Congregation was on August 18, 1925. She was given the name of Sister Robert Marie of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, a religious name by which she was known until September 1969 when she returned to her baptismal name. Mother Benedicta O’Rourke was then the Prioress General. Two years later on August 27, 1927, she made her First Profession of Vows to Mother Eveline Mackey who had just become the Prioress General. Her Final Vows were made on August 22, 1933.
Mission life for Sister Vera, which spanned fifty years, began in 1926 at St. Mary, Muskegon where she experienced a beautiful and loving community. After eight years there she spent her next eight years at St. Joseph, Bay City. During those sixteen years she taught on the elementary and junior high level. The next eleven years of her life were spent in high school teaching at Boys’ Catholic Central, Grand Rapids; Gaylord; Beal City; St. Joseph, Bay City; Maple Grove; West Branch; and Traverse City.
When the new Catholic Central High School in Muskegon opened in 1953, Sister Vera was one of the first Sisters missioned there. For the next twenty-three years she served at CC as the librarian. Since CC had no Convent, the Sisters were housed at the various missions. Sister Vera resided at St. Mary Convent for four years, and then until 1966 the majority of the Sisters lived in the CC Fourth Street Convent. In 1966 the new CC Convent opened and Sister Vera was appointed the Superior for the Sisters. It was one of the first ventures in intercommunity living. These were blessed and fruitful years not only in school but also in the Convent.
Muskegon’s Catholic Central library was an attractive and important center in the school where the students were always welcome, and Sister Vera was never too busy to give needed help. On August 29, 1969, Sister broke a hip and from that time on underwent many surgeries both in Grand Rapids and at the Mayo Clinic; this meant there were intervals when Sister had to be away from CC. When her services there terminated in 1976, she was given a very lovely and meaningful plaque for her long years of dedicated service.
In spite of crutches and wheel chairs which became a necessary part of Sister Vera’s life after 1969, she wanted to continue ministry. For the next two years she assisted at Marywood in the Graphic Arts Department; then for the following eight years she was the Marywood Community Librarian. In April 1986 Sister’s residence became Aquinata Hall where she continued to faithfully live common life.
Sister Vera was a strong woman. All of her life she was a most generous and willing person who made community life happier and brighter. Her talents were not limited to teaching and library science. She was able to make beautiful, artistic crafted articles in many different media. The key to her beautiful life was her closeness to God. Prayer life was always her first priority and the Jesus prayer became her favorite.
In a recent autobiographical sketch Sister Vera wrote, “I have met and worked with many wonderful and gracious women in our Dominican family. I cherish my friends and those who generously helped me along the way. I also wish to pay tribute to my family, my many nieces and nephews who continue to care. I appreciate the talent that God has given me to work with my hands and the time to read, reflect, and grow in His love. I am sorry if I have caused anyone any undue pain. Kindly pray for my soul.”
Sister Vera’s favorite was Psalm: 103, “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all my being, bless God’s holy name.” The words of the psalm are fittingly ours as we praise and thank God with heartfelt gratitude for the beautiful, courageous, and valiant woman that Sister Vera has been in our midst. May all the sufferings she bore with patience and fidelity be blessing for the Church, her Dominican family, and her own family all of whom she loved so tenderly.
Sister Vera is survived by many nieces, nephews, and friends.
Entered eternal life on August 8, 2000 at the age of 94 after 75 years of religious life
We commend Sister Vera to your prayers.