God bestows innumerable blessings on his Church through each of the women and men he calls to religious life in orders and congregations throughout the world.
So many unique gifts, so many conduits of grace. But only one Sister Angelina Marie of the Mother of God.
Sr. Angelina Marie, 90, who spent 75 years as a cloistered, contemplative Discalced Carmelite nun, died peacefully on Nov. 3 at Our Lady of Rickenbach in Clyde, Missouri.
“Sister was the happiest, most joy-filled person I have ever met,” said Father Philip Niekamp, who spent a great deal of time with the Discalced Carmelites in Jefferson City before becoming a priest.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sr. Angelina Marie was celebrated on Nov. 10, with Bishop W. Shawn McKnight presiding and Bishop Emeritus John R. Gaydos and priests of the Jefferson City diocese concelebrating.
“Through her active charity and life of prayer, Sr. Angelina Marie has actively followed the Lord in her own life, to what God has prepared for her now in eternity,” Bishop McKnight stated in his homily.
“Our Lord tells us at different times in our lives, ‘Follow me,’” Sr. Angelina Marie observed in 2017.
Born and raised in a devout Catholic family in Aragon, New Mexico, the former Juanita Eva Milligan, recognized her call to religious life while very young.
Discalced (or “shoeless”) Carmelite nuns, so named because they wear sandals instead of shoes, spend their lives in a cloistered community.
They accept and embrace a joyful, ascetic, lifestyle as a wedding gift from Jesus, who is the source of their joy.
They follow a rigorous daily regimen of prayer and sacrifice, in addition to the Evangelical Counsels of poverty, chastity and holy obedience — all for the sake of bringing souls to Christ.
Their primary mission is to pray for priests, for the intentions of people who ask for prayers, and for the world at large.
Sr. Angelina Marie entered the Carmel of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Saint Teresa in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Oct. 28, 1948, her 15th birthday, and received the holy habit of Carmel a year and one day later.
She professed solemn vows, promising God to live the rest of her life under the rule of Carmel, on Oct. 28, 1954.
Bishop Joseph M. Marling C.PP.S., founding bishop of Jefferson City, wrote to Bishop Edwin V. Byrne of Santa Fe and to Reverend Mother Mary Teresa DeLeon, founding prioress of the Carmel in Santa Fe, asking for the sisters to establish a Carmel in the Jefferson City diocese.
“They agreed to it, and he invited us to come here,” Sr. Angelina Marie recalled in 2017.
The late Mother Mary Teresa, whom the sisters fondly remember as “Our Little Mother,” asked for volunteers among the Santa Fe Carmel to join her in moving to Missouri.
Seven sisters joined her in May 1960. They lived in a home on West Main Street while their cloister was being built near the present site of the Cathedral of St. Joseph.
The first Mass in the Chapel of the Carmel of the Sacred Heart and St. Joseph was offered on June 10, 1962.
Over time, several of the sisters became ill and returned to Santa Fe. Sr. Angelina Marie, who had volunteered to move to Jefferson City with the first group, was asked to come in February 1963.
She played an essential role in the Jefferson City Carmel over the following 50 years.
“She spent time doing just about everything in the monastery,” said Carmelite Mother Marie Therese DuBois, prioress. “Whenever she saw a need, she responded with great generosity and joy.
“She worked in the garden, in the kitchen, as the sacristan, in the bread department, anywhere she was needed,” Mother Marie Therese recalled.
That joy never waned as the years passed, several sisters entered eternal life, and life in the Carmel changed.
Monsignor Robert A. Kulwicki, vicar general of the Jefferson City diocese, has been interacting with the
Carmelite sisters in various capacities for nearly four decades.
“As with any monastery, I found it first and foremost to be a house of prayer,” he stated during the prayer service the night before Sr. Angelina Marie’s funeral.
“That is always what struck me when you came in to Carmel — that this was someplace different, special, unique,” he said.
“And the sisters who lived in Carmel, each was different in her very own way,” Msgr. Kurwicki recalled. “Not everyone thought alike, acted alike, WAS alike. Each of their personalities beamed right through, and so did the faith.”
In 2013, at the invitation of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Northwestern Missouri, the Carmelite sisters sold their monastery to the Cathedral of St. Joseph Parish and moved to a separate home on the grounds of the Benedictine Monastery.
“It was hard when God said, ‘Follow me to Clyde,’” Sr. Angelina Marie recalled in 2017. “It was not easy. But it was a great blessing.”
“Sr. Angelina Marie adjusted very well to the situation,” said Sister Rita Dohn of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.
“We all loved her as if she were one of our own,” added Benedictine Sister Cathleen Marie Timberlake, administrator of Our Lady of Rickenbach in Clyde.
In time, Sr. Angelina Marie was welcomed into the assisted living community at the Benedictine Monastery, where she continued offering her prayers and sacrifices in a larger community.
She never stopped radiating laughter and joy.
“She lived a full and blessed life, a beautiful life,” Mother Marie Therese noted. “Seventy-five years in Carmel. I can’t imagine anything else she ever wanted to do!”
“A special gem”
Sr. Angelina Marie’s favorite prayer was the “Memorare,” which calls to mind the Blessed Mother’s unceasing intercession before the throne of God, and asks her to hear and present the intentions of the faithful to her Son.
“Her joy, her smile, her willingness to give — that’s what I’ll remember about Sr. Angelina Marie,” said Mother Marie Therese.
“She’d do anything for you,” the prioress continued. “It was her vocation. We enter Carmel to serve — to serve God and our community. That’s what she did. She served God through her community.”
In his homily at the Funeral Mass, Bishop McKnight spoke of how Sr. Angelina Marie reflected the Paschal Mystery of Christ in her humble, quiet life of prayer and devotion.
“As Church, we treasure every consecrated religious person as a special gem, since they reflect the multi-faceted grace of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, in living out intensely the Evangelical Counsels of poverty, chastity and holy obedience,” the bishop said.
“We are closer to God because of their presence among us,” he stated. “It is our sure and certain hope, that as Sr. Angelina Marie has lived a life of solitude — not simply to be ‘lonely’ but intentionally ‘alone with the Lord’ — she now benefits by remaining with him until the resurrection of the dead.”
He emphasized that to consecrate oneself to Christ means to place oneself unreservedly in God’s hands.
“It is a humbling act,” the bishop stated, “but one that opens a wide vista of spiritual insight and opportunity for the grace of God to be at work.”
Mother Marie Therese said Sr. Angelina Marie epitomized the life of all women and men religious, who accept God’s invitation to lay down their own lives for others.
“Like Mother Therese of Calcutta said, ‘We’re the pencil in the hand of God,’” the prioress stated.
“Sr. Angelina Marie said ‘yes’ to God, which made her a beautiful instrument, and wrote 75 years’ worth, and she did that faithfully,” she said. “Because it was all about him.”
Burial was in the Carmelite Cemetery in Jefferson City.
“God gave her a wonderful life,” Msgr. Kurwicki stated. “How appropriate that she’ll be laid to rest in the part of the earth in which she spent decades of her life, contemplating God, praying for others, sacrificing for the Church and building up her community of faith.”
Mother Marie Therese believes Sr. Angelina Marie would have encouraged any young woman who believes she’s being called to contemplative religious life to inquire and try it out.
“You don’t lose anything by trying, by giving God a chance,” Mother Marie Therese noted.
The Carmelite nuns continue to pray for the bishop, priests and people of the diocese. All are invited to send prayer requests to them at firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to 31970 State Hwy. P, Clyde, MO, 64432.