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Sister Matthias remembered for intellect, call to Christ

Sister Matthias remembered for intellect, call to Christ - (25-03-2018)

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Benedictine Sister of Perpetual Adoration Mary Matthias Igoe, OSB passed away March 23, 2018.

She was born Rainalda Aurelia Igoe was born on March 11, 1923, in St. Louis. She was the second of three girls born to John Igoe and Anastasia Fuller. Her mother named her after a Notre Dame sister because she liked the name. Born two months premature, her mother was given a St. Benedict medal that she pinned to Rainalda.

At the age of five, Rainalda  began school at St. Michael’s. When her family moved to St. Leo’s parish the next year, Rainalda was promoted to second grade. By midyear, she was moved to  third grade. Thus, she graduated from grade school at the age of 12 and from Rosati-Kain High School at 16. She received a National Youth Agency work scholarship from Fontbonne College, where she majored in sociology and psychology and minored in biology.  

There were times when Rainalda considered a religious vocation, but she said, “not yet.”  At the end of her senior year, she got a scholarship to study social work at St. Louis University. While attending school, she worked part-time for Catholic Charities and loved every minute of it. She felt her religious and spiritual life deepening. She attended daily Mass, read Thomas Merton, and worked with the Legion of Mary. She earned a master’s degree in social work in 1948.

The call to serve God in religious life continued to surface. When she was ready to apply to the Sisters of the Good Shepherd she had underwent an emergency appendectomy. The doctor recommended not thinking of entrance for at least six months. This led her to discernment that resulted in a call to the contemplative form of religious life.  

Rainalda visited the Benedictine Sisters in Clyde, Missouri, for the first time in April 1951. She entered in August 1951 and made first vows on Feb. 24, 1953, receiving the name Matthias.  She later remarked, “I have appreciated the name, and when we were permitted to change back to our baptismal name, I did not do so. I found the life of Matthias, although sketchy, had similarities to my spiritual journey. He was with Jesus from the beginning but not chosen at the beginning. He had followed as a simple disciple, patiently learning how to be meek and humble of heart.” She made her final vows on March 13, 1958.

A few months after her first profession, she was asked to teach Latin to the novices, particularly the psalms that were used in the Divine Office. This was a real test of faith because she had only two years of Latin in high school, and it had been 14 years since she had touched a Latin book. She accomplished it by keeping one step ahead of the class. She also worked in the correspondence department and as portress during these first years.  

Recognizing in Sister Matthias a keen intellect, her prioress sent her and Sister Pascaline Coff, OSB to study theology in 1956 at St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana. A doctorate in theology was not granted to women in those years, so she received a doctorate in sacred doctrine. Upon her return, she was assigned as secretary to the prioress and to the cause for canonization of Father Lukas Etlin, OSB, an early chaplain of the Clyde community.

In 1965 Sister Matthias was sent to the Kansas City, Missouri, monastery where she was appointed sub-prioress. She helped lead the community in studying the documents of Vatican II and gave input on human growth and psychology. After the 1968 General Chapter, Sister Matthias was appointed prioress at the monastery in Tucson, Arizona, and served two terms. In the mid-1970s, there was much interest in trying small experimental communities. Approval was given for a small community on the Clyde grounds and Sister Matthias agreed to be part of this group. The Sisters of this group were assigned to work in the Clyde printery. During this time, Sister Matthias was sent to study patristics and scripture at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. After a couple of years, it became clear that a small community on the Clyde grounds was not feasible. It was disbanded after the 1978 General Chapter.  

Sister Matthias was elected to the General Council and served from 1978 to 1982 and again from 1982 to 1986. She remained in St. Louis afterward, which enabled her to be near her aging parents. She also worked in the correspondence department and served as sub-prioress. In 1996 she moved to the small community in Wyoming. The Wyoming weather proved to be too frigid, and she transferred to the Tucson community in 1997. There Sister Matthias once again did correspondence work, served as secretary to the prioress and wrote the community chronicles. She volunteered to help in the St. Louis infirmary as pastoral minister in 2000. When the infirmary was moved to Clyde in 2001, Sister Matthias returned to Tucson. She started developing her craft skills and began weaving and making dream catchers.

Ongoing health problems necessitated a move to Our Lady of Rickenbach Health Care Center in 2006. A difficult cross in Sister’s later years was losing her hearing, which limited conversation with the Sisters. She passed away early in the morning on March 23 with her profession companion, Sister Dawn Vercellino, OSB, praying with her.

Sister Matthias once said that besides her Golden Jubilee, she anticipated that another happiest day would be “the really great one, when I answer the Lord’s call to come into the heavenly kingdom.” She is survived by her monastic community; her sister, Marcella (Sister Anna John, CSJ); her niece, Jackie Harris; her nephew, Lt. Col. Arthur Hayes; and succeeding generations.  Her funeral and burial were on March 26, 2018, in Clyde.