News &

Articles &
Audio &

They are
all Jews

& More Info

Sister Mary Samuele

(born Sonia Katzmann)

Holy Spirit Adoration Sister*

Letter circulated upon her death,  + November  25, 1978

One sentence written about our deceased Sister Mary Samuele, Sonia Katzmann, who died a little over six months after her first profession, seems to summarize the sentiments of all the Sisters who wrote about her:  "Good Sr. M. Samuele shared our life for a short time only, and during this time we learned to really love and treasure her."

Our Sister was the daughter of pious, strictly orthodox Russian Jewish parents.  Her father once even let himself be fired from his job rather than work on the Sabbath.  Sr. M. Samuele always retained vivid remembrances of the religious practices at home and in the synagogue.  Some years after his marriage, Joseph Katzmann left Russia for the United States, intending to earn enough money to have his wife and their young daughter, Anna, follow him.  The Russian Revolution intervened, and it was eleven years before the little family was again reunited in America. Thus Anna was nineteen years older than Sonia, born in Philadelphia on September 22, 1929.  Their parents were simple but intelligent, capable people, who spoke six languages and set up their own business. In her early teens, despite her attendance at Hebrew School in addition to the regular school, Sonia lost interest in the Jewish services.  She described how one evening as she took her place with her parents in the synagogue, she thought to herself, "I don't find God here." Thereafter she attended the services only for the sake of her parents.

After high school, Sonia worked as a clerk for seventeen years. At work a young woman began to speak to her of the Catholic Church, and Sonia's interest was sparked immediately.  Intensely attracted to the Blessed Virgin, she obtained a rosary and hid it in her room.  Her new-found religion opened up a new world for her but she said nothing to her parents.  One day her mother discovered the rosary, knew what it meant and showed it to her husband.  In anger he wanted to discard it, but his wife protested that it was a holy object to be treated with respect.  After that, Sonia had to endure many difficult scenes with her father and sister.  Her mother, though saddened, was more understanding.  Sonia learned of the Poor Clares and became one of their benefactors, as also one of ours some years later.  She began going to Mass but had to postpone becoming a Catholic until after the death of her parents.  Years later, one Sunday she watched the people going to Communion, and struck with a longing to receive Jesus, she went to the pastor after Mass and made arrangements to take instructions in the Faith. She always recalled the day of her baptism as one of pure joy. When the thought of a religious vocation arose, she first turned to the Poor Clares.  She was accepted by them, but for various reasons had to leave after a year.  After spending long hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, she again attempted to fulfill her desire for religious life by making the observer program at the Convent of Divine Love.  Having received the acceptance to enter, she returned to her apartment only to gather her belongings and terminate her lease.  She entered in July 1975, became a novice in May 1976 and was professed in May 1978.

Sr. M. Samuele relished the thought that she was part of both the Old and New Covenants, and one of her greatest delights was reading from the prophets and books of the Old Testament during the Divine Office or Mass. She had a strong, clear voice and was an excellent reader -- she put her whole heart and soul into these readings, placing special expression into phrases she particularly liked. Once as a postulant, after practising the O Antiphons before Christmas, Sister approached the choir directress with eyes full of wonder, saying how much it meant to her to sing "O Adonai", the holy and awesome name of the Lord. One could often notice the same glow on her countenance on feast days such as the Presentation of the Lord and others so rich in Jewish tradition. Shortly before her death, Sister said that she thanked God every day that she had been born a Jew, because it paved her way to the fullness of Christianity.

The three years of Sr. M. Samuele's formation were not always easy, but she spoke of them as the happiest of her life. She was a very sensitive person and felt humiliated by the fact that she was older than her companions. Her feelings of inadequacy in the face of the talents of others sometimes caused her to withdraw at recreation, although she was a social person and loved to take part in the plays and skits for feast days. She had a flair for the dramatic and enjoyed making others laugh. Her special delight was playing thepart of Father Arnold (St. Arnold Janssen, Founder of the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters, see website listed at end for more information on the Founder), and she would put special effort into it so that he would be pleased with her impersonation from his place in heaven. Sr. M. Samuele's inclination to be fearful and anxious caused her to react strongly at times to the words or actions of others and to be somewhat demanding on occasion. But she was also quick to recognize her faults, to accept correction, and to ask forgiveness. In fact, whenever she had been in a tense situation with another sister, she would invariably be the first to apologize. But the quality which the Sisters recall most consistently is her outstanding spirit of gratitude. She took pains to express her thanks for the smallest things done for her, even for things that no one else usually thought of thanking for.

Sr. M. Samuele's novitiate companions were amazed at her wide knowledge and factual accuracy in a great variety of subjects. The Sisters lovingly teased her as their "walking encyclopedia." Sister's love and profound respect for the beauty of creation revealed the true beauty hidden deep in her soul. Classical and operatic music could hold her interest for long periods, and she knew the names and composers of many symphonies, as well as interesting information on the composers' lives and work. She was very devoted to the welfare of her companions and rendered many helpful attentions. There was a childlike air about her as she let herself be shown and told what to do, and then she carried it out with conscientious fidelity. Sr. M. Samuele took organ lessons in the convent and applied herself with great zeal and interest to practising. It was a notable sacrifice for her to think of never playing again after she became ill.

Sr. M. Samuele was professed only two months when it was discovered that cancer had affected many inner organs and even her brain. She was immediately hospitalized and given chemotherapy, which greatly relieved the pain. Sr. M. Victoria, her novice directress, writes: "The last four months of Sr. M. Samuele's life were nothing more than the breaking loose, in all its tenderness and fury, of God's love for her. She suffered intensely her first few days in the hospital. Once when we went to see her, she managed to say despite her pain, "He has broken me down completely. He can do whatever he wants with me." It seems that was what God was waiting for. After that he carried her "as a man carries his child, all along the way." Then began the flowering of her personality. She who could be rather negative in her outlook and had moods of melancholy, traits which we feared would be intensified by her illness, now was always in good spirits, interested in others and concerned about them. She never bewailed her fate or showed any bitterness or repining. She had always had a fine spirit of gratitude -- now it flowed from her at the least provocation: gratitude to God, to her Sisters, to the doctors and nurses, her friends."

Sr. M. Samuele's love for the Congregation was very deep and almost daily she would speak about returning to the convent. But just when the doctors decided that they would allow her to do so, she took a turn for the worse. The cancer was beginning to attack the heart tissue, and she now required almost continuous care for the last week of her life. Of her last day, Sr. M. Gemma, her superior, writes: "Together we prayed the vow formula, but when we came to the actual renewal of vows, Sr. M. Samuele gave a little sign that she wanted to pray this part alone. With gasping breath she prayed alone and inserted the words: for life. After she had finished, she paused a moment, and then added, 'This is forever.' I stayed with Sister the last ten conscious hours of her life, and I treasure every moment. She remained her simple self until the end. She told me the priests she wanted invited to her funeral and the hymns she wanted sung. About 9:00 p.m. Sister lost consciousness and peacefully went home to the Lord at 3:30 the following morning."  Besides the priests she had wanted at her funeral, Bishop Lohmuller and four other priests concelebrated the Mass.  The vicar for Religious, who knew Sister before her entrance, gave a stirring eulogy, and the chapel was filled to capacity. Cardinal Krol wrote our community a letter of personal condolence.

May she who loved our Congregation so much continue to pray for all of us.

*  The Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters have four convents in the U.S.:  in Philadelphia PA, St. Louis MO, Corpus Chirsti TX, and Lincoln, NE.  The addresses, as well as additional information on the order and its founder, can be found on their website  www.adorationsisters.org .  In addition, the St. Louis convent has its own website, and the Philadelphia convent provides a website with a live video link to the Blessed Sacrament exposed for Adoration 24 hours a day. We express our gratitude to the Sisters for permission to reproduce this circular letter, and for their prayers.