"The greater the work the more
important it is to establish it on
a solid foundation. Thus it will
not only be more perfect; it
will also be more lasting.”

St. Louise de Marillac

“Be diligent in serving
the poor. Love the poor,
honor them, my children,
as you would honor
Christ Himself.”

St. Louise de Marillac

 

Remembering S. Irene Mraz

Sister Irene (Mary Michaelene) Mraz died April 30, 2023 at the age of  89 in Mother Margaret Hall, the nursing facility for the Sisters of Charity, Cincinnati, Ohio. Sister Irene was born on Aug. 24, 1933 to Michael and Mary (Sudzina) Mraz in Campbell, Ohio. She was the youngest of seven children, four girls and three boys. She was a Sister for 74 years, entering the Vincentian Sisters of Charity in Bedford, Ohio in 1948. The Vincentian Sisters merged with the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati in 2004.

Sister Irene attended public schools in Campbell, Ohio, and was a member of St. Elizabeth parish, Youngstown, Ohio. At an early age she was drawn to doing things for and with others. A Sister of Mercy cousin that her family visited often had a deep influence on Sister Irene. She shared, “I spent a lot of my time with her in the orphanage where she ministered to boys, age infant to 12. It was here where I learned the ways of serving and reaching out to others; I knew this would be my life’s call. God did not disappoint.”

Sister Irene earned a Bachelor of Science degree in education from St. John’s College, Cleveland, Ohio, in 1963. Her first ministry as a Sister was teaching elementary students at St. Ladislas, Cleveland, Ohio, while attending St. John’s College during the summers and weekends to earn her bachelor’s degree.

Sister Irene’s active ministries spanned more than 60 years; 21 in the elementary classroom, eight in religious education, 12 in congregational leadership, five as a missionary in El Salvador and 16 in pastoral ministry. She taught grades first through eighth, ministering at Holy Trinity, Lorain, Ohio (1953-’57); St. Andrew, Cleveland (1957-’59); St. Pius X, Bedford, Ohio (1960-’62, 1965-’74); St. Rita, Solon, Ohio (1962-’63); and St. Elizabeth, Youngstown, Ohio (1964-’65). After additional academic work in religious education at St. John’s College, she felt prepared to serve as religious education coordinator at St. Pius X, Bedford from 1975 until 1979 and at St. Mary, Bedford from 1979 until 1981.

After much prayer and discernment Sister Irene accepted a call to serve on the Cleveland Missionary Team to El Salvador in 1981. She went after the American missionaries were martyred, a time filled with anxiety and war. During those five years she helped prepare and write a Spanish catechetical aid for those in the villages who were preparing children to receive the sacraments. “We also created take-home sheets in order for the messages learned to be reinforced and remembered,” Sister Irene stated. The village teachers were most grateful for the faith-based preparation from the Missionary Team and the encouragement provided.

The returning years offered Sister Irene an opportunity to assist Lumen Cordium High School in Bedford with development assistance, followed by three four-year terms of leadership for the Vincentian Sisters of Charity Community. In 1999 she became the pastoral minister of St. Pius X parish. She would say of those years, “One of my greatest challenges was the merger of a cluster of Cleveland diocesan parishes beginning in 2007 when the bishops asked for the merger or possible closing of several parishes.” She remained proud of the transition team that met monthly for 18 months, facing the realities of each parish – demographics, real estate holdings, building conditions, parish needs, number of Catholics participating in liturgy. “We had to be honest, open and willing to rely on prayer. We learned the art and joy of change.” As an outcome Holy Trinity, Bedford Heights and St. Mary, Bedford merged with St. Pius X, Bedford to form Our Lady of Hope parish.

In May 2017, Sister Irene retired from her many and varied ministries at Our Lady of Hope parish, Bedford. She moved to her new home at the Mount St. Joseph Motherhouse in Cincinnati, continuing her spirit of giving and outreach wherever she could be of service. She enjoyed getting to know her ‘new Sisters.’ In retirement Sister Irene appreciated spending time in God’s creation, reading, listening to music, enjoying a good movie and being with people.

Sister Dorothy Ann Blatnica shared, “Thank you, Irene, for all the memories and laughter we shared during our life together. May you find joy and laughter in abundance in your new heavenly home as you greet all those whose lives you have touched with your own.”

Associate Nancy Bick Clark appreciated Sister Irene as a great listener. “She would add gems of insight to what was being said in group discussions. If I had to characterize her spirit in a few words, I’d say ‘gentle and strong.’”  

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