August 10, 2012

Sister Mildred Wannemuehler helped build St. Agnes Church in Nashville

By Mary Ann Garber

Benedictine Sister Mildred WannemuehlerBenedictine Sister Mildred Wannemuehler, a former prioress of the Sisters of St. Benedict of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove and former longtime parish life coordinator of St. Agnes Parish in Nashville, died on Aug. 1 at the monastery. She was 82.

The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Aug. 4 at the monastery chapel. Burial followed at the sisters’ cemetery.

Benedictine Sister Juliann Babcock, prioress, said Sister Mildred was a gifted teacher, principal, pastoral administrator, spiritual director and retreat presenter during 63 years of religious life.

“I think one thing that stands out about her is that she was a born teacher,” Sister Juliann said. “She started her [ministry] career teaching children at grade schools and [later] at high schools in Evansville, [Ind.], Indianapolis and [Florissant, Mo., near] St. Louis. She loved to teach.”

Sister Mildred utilized her teaching and leadership skills in her ministries at parishes as well as at the monastery, Sister Juliann said, where she served as formation director then as prioress for eight years.

“She enjoyed teaching all of us what it meant to be a Benedictine,” Sister Juliann said. “She modeled what she taught us. She lived the Benedictine life. She loved it, and she lived it, and she taught it.”

As one of the early parish life coordinators in the archdiocese, Sister Mildred enjoyed serving the people at St. Agnes Parish in Nashville.

“She helped when they were moving the parish and building the church,” Sister Juliann said. “She worked hard with the people to find the right plot of land—and that wasn’t easy—then worked with them to get the church built [at 1008 McLary Road in Nashville in 2003]. She loved the people there. She loved her family, … her Benedictine life and her parish life, and gave her all to them.”

In the archdiocese, Sister Mildred also ministered at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Clarksville and the former Our Lady of Grace Academy in Beech Grove.

Sharing Benedictine hospitality with others was one of her favorite ministries, Sister Juliann said. “I think our Benedictine hospitality was a value that she emanated. She loved people, and the more people she could be around the happier she was.”

Sister Mildred will be remembered for her deep spirituality and her joy in serving others, Sister Juliann said. “She was very prayerful, very faithful to her daily prayer life. Her love for God was very evident. She was extremely devoted to praying the Liturgy of the Hours every day. … She started [the practice of praying] Morning Prayer with the parishioners at St. Agnes.”

Each day, Sister Mildred prayed for all of the people that she encountered in her ministries, Sister Juliann said. “She would ask God to bless them and bless her work. … It was ‘a litany of gratitude,’ she called it, and she did that every day.”

Lucille Matilda Wannemuehler was born on March 16, 1930, in Evansville, Ind., and entered Monastery Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand, Ind., on Sept. 7, 1947.

She was invested with the Benedictine habit as a novice on June 7, 1948, then made her first monastic profession on June 13, 1949, and perpetual monastic profession on Aug. 10, 1952. She became a founding member of the monastery in Beech Grove in 1960.

Sister Mildred earned a bachelor’s degree in education at the former St. Benedict Normal College in Ferdinand, Ind.; a master’s degree in education at the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Ind.; a master’s degree in theology at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn.; and a master’s degree in spirituality at Holy Name College in Oakland, Calif.

She ministered as a teacher and principal as well as a junior director, novice mistress and prioress at the monastery then as a pastoral associate and parish life coordinator.

Sister Mildred served her religious community as formation director and then as prioress from 1977-85.

In 1986, Sister Mildred began her ministry as parish life coordinator of St. Agnes Parish in Nashville, where she served until her retirement in 2005.

She celebrated her 60th jubilee on June 21, 2009.

Shortly before her death, she wrote a book, The Real Color of Nashville, about the people of Brown County.

Surviving are a sister, Ruth Weekley of Mogadore, Ohio; and two brothers, Lee Wannemuehler of Holmen, Wis., and Gil Wannemuehler of Evansville, Ind.

Memorial gifts may be sent to the Sisters of St. Benedict, Retirement Fund, Our Lady of Grace Monastery, 1402 Southern Ave., Beech Grove, IN 46107. †

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