One member of the Little Sisters of the Poor has recently proved that a religious vocation is indeed a life-long – or even “long-life” – calling.
Sr. Thomas, LSP, celebrated her 90th birthday in late September, and while that is a milestone in and of itself, she was also celebrating her 70th anniversary of religious life.
Sr. Thomas first joined the Little Sisters when she was 16 – two weeks shy of her 17th birthday. In 1944, she made her profession and started her full life with the congregation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The Little Sisters of the Poor are a group of professed religious women who dedicate their lives to the care of the elderly poor. They have homes all over the world and across the United States, headed in this country under three provinces: New York, Baltimore, and Chicago. Sr. Thomas has lived and worked in homes across all three, and has spent the last 14 years in the Gallup home.
Raised for most of her life in an orphanage in Detroit, Sr. Thomas says she first became familiar with the Little Sisters when children from the orphanage would sing at the home run by the congregation.
“We used to come and sing, and I knew I had no desire for married life,” Sr. Thomas recalls. “So I asked Mrs. Kirby – who was my chaperone – she was the chaperone at the orphanage and I was the first one to ask her to enter.”
The date was September 8th, 1941. Sr. Thomas knew she wanted to enter the Little Sisters and not some other congregation because she felt that college was not for her.
“I had no desire to teach, and I didn’t have that much education anyhow. I would have had to go to college, but it [wasn’t for me].”
After her final profession, Sr. Thomas dedicated herself to menial tasks with, as it is easy to imagine from speaking with her – humility and diligence. The greatest assignment she had was as a cook and helper in the kitchens of various homes, an assignment she would undertake for 20 years.
As a young child, Sr. Thomas’ mother died of pneumonia, and she and her seven siblings were left alone when her father suddenly abandoned them soon after . She never saw him again in her life. Raised in the orphanage, St. Vincent’s, until she entered the congregation, she at last found a family in the company of her fellow sisters. Even now, at 90, she takes the time to help launder her fellow sisters’ habits, set their tables, and even play a card game or two. But most important of all to her life, she notes, has been prayer.
“The only thing that is more important [than anything] is prayer life. If you keep up your prayers, God will always help you.”
Sr. Thomas is good to her word, as she spends much of her time in the home’s chapel. She tries to constantly pray for the souls in Purgatory, and mentions a personal devotion to the Infant of Prague.
At the conclusion of our interview, after she has had her picture taken, she smiles.
“I have to go now,” she says. “I have more rosaries to say.”