Nearing 100, Sr. Aloysia and ‘her girls’ keep in touch
They still remember Most Holy Sacrament Sister Aloysia Doleac singing in halls at Annunciation High even though it’s been approximately 50 to 60 years since most were students at the school in the Faubourg Marigny on Marais and Mandeville streets.
But that’s not the only thing members of the Annunciation High Alumni Association remember about Sister Aloysia. She was Glee Club director, taught religion, civics, English and biology from 1947-1960 and returned in 1970 to close the school in 1971 as its last principal.
For Annunciation graduates, Sister Aloysia, who turns 100 on Jan. 5, 2017, is a reminder of the strong foundation they received that led to successes in life, said Joan Wolverton, who is among several alums who still visit her in Lafayette – at the 42-bed Bethany MHS Health Care, owned by the sisters – to thank her for her dedication over the years.
“From the very first time you met her, you knew that not only did she expect her girls to be respectful but she led by example,” Wolverton said. “She got to know each of us in our own special ways and found the time – no matter how busy – to encourage us to work hard. Failure was not acceptable. You just picked yourself up and started over until you succeeded.”
Wolverton remembered Sister Aloysia giving her the experience of speaker introductions as class president and student body president – a skill she said she used in community relations at Mobil Oil. Sister Aloysia would tell her: “Joan, we are working on enhancing the strengths that God gave you. They will blossom and you will use them the rest of your life. … And won’t it be beautiful to tell people that the Most Holy Sacrament Sisters helped formulate these strengths?”
The week before graduation, she recalled Sister Aloysia saying, “Joan, I want you to keep that smile and happy-go-lucky positive attitude. Trust me, it will carry you through all the detours in life.”
Care for each other
Sister Aloysia is the oldest of the 18 remaining Most Holy Sacrament nuns in Lafayette, where the order’s motherhouse has been headquartered since the 1920s, said Sister Diane Dornan, pastoral leader, who grew up in Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish in New Orleans.
The order, first called the Perpetual Adoration Sisters of the Most Holy Sacrament, arrived in the United States in 1879 to work at Annunciation upon the invitation of Archbishop Napoleon Perché. The American province of the order became independent from France in 1892. Because there weren’t enough nuns to teach and keep perpetual adoration, the U.S. order dropped the perpetual adoration part of the name to reflect this when the motherhouse moved to Lafayette. They follow the rule of St. Augustine and have a eucharistic charism.
As pastoral leader of the Most Holy Sacrament Sisters, Sister Diane said she accompanies her fellow sisters, like Sister Aloysia, to the doctor. She says even though she uses a walker with wheels to get around, has macular degeneration and is hearing-impaired, Sister Aloysia dresses herself every morning and has a mind as sharp as a tack.
“She is very fiercely independent, but very spiritual,” Sister Diane said. She mentioned Sister Aloysia’s involvement in the Catholic Charismatic Movement, and being a spiritual director and choir leader at Christ the King in Gretna from 1987-2006. She moved to assisted living in Lafayette in 2006.
“She loves her Annunciation girls,” Sister Diane said. “She always talks about them as ‘my girls.’”
With their numbers dwindling, the Most Holy Sacrament Sisters entered into a covenant relationship approved by the Vatican with the Marianites of Holy Cross in January 2015. This means Sister Ann Lacour, congregational leader of the Marianites, is pontifical commissary, charged with the governance of the Most Holy Sacrament Sisters until there are no nuns in the order remaining.
The Annunciation High Alumni Association, which formed in 1988, has been holding an annual luncheon to benefit the Most Holy Sacrament Sisters’ retirement. In past years, Sister Aloysia and other Most Holy Sacrament sisters would attend, with Sister Aloysia making and selling crafts to raise money for her order.
“I am very appreciative and grateful to the Annunciation girls for their generous donations to MHS for our sisters who are in retirement,” Sister Aloysia said. “I am very proud to have been a part of it.”