This is a continuation of my story Another Piece of the Puzzle:
I first contacted the School Sisters of Notre Dame Dallas Province Archives at St. Mary of the Pines in Chatawa, MS. The good sisters provided me with a big chunk of this family puzzle. Mary Jane’s religious name was Sister Mary Arona. She died 7 Mar 1922……her final resting place……School Sisters of Notre Dame Motherhouse Cemetery, St. Louis, MO
They, so graciously, emailed me her obituary.
Obituary of Sister Mary Arona Dove:
"For the grace of God our Savior hath appeared to all men." St. Paul.
Among our dear Sisters who departed life in the year of the Lord 1922, three were born of Protestant parents. One of them was our beloved:
Sister Mary Arona Dove whose father was a Methodist and the mother a Baptist. The family lived in Barbour County, Alabama, where Mary, our late Sister Arona, was born in the month of May, 1853. Mr. and Mrs. Dove were religious in their own way and endeavored, as well as they knew, to instill the fear of God into the hearts of their children. The mother was a very industrious woman and skillful in handling the needle and spinning wheel. At an early age Mary was taught to spin, and each day a certain amount of work was assigned her, and the little spinner knew that not until the work was finished and well done, would she be permitted to run out for play. Thus our dear Sister Arona acquired in early life that steady application and real love for work which we all admired in her. For a short time she attended the public school, but when the Civil War broke out, and her teacher was called to arms, her books were laid aside. Her father, too, was compelled to enter the army, and the mother, in the hope of saving her sons from being drafted, moved to New Orleans. This was evidently a kind dispensation of Divine Providence, for it brought little Mary into the Fold of the true Church. Shortly after her arrival in New Orleans good Mrs. Dove, worn out by worries, died a peaceful death. Charitable neighbors took charge of the children. Mary was then brought to our St. Joseph Orphan Home.
A new life now unfolded itself to Mary - "The grace of God our Savior" drew the innocent heart to Himself, and although only ten years old she pleaded to be made a Catholic. She was instructed and successively the holy sacraments of Baptism, Penance, and Holy Eucharist were administered unto her. At the age of twelve years- Mary was unusually strong for her age·- she began to assist the Sisters with the work in the Home where all hands were overtaxed on account of the ever increasing number of orphans. Having completed her sixteenth year, she manifested a desire to spend her life as a religious and received the candidate's bonnet. While a candidate Mary was taught shoemaking, an occupation for which she entertained a special liking all through life.
In 1878 we find Mary in the Motherhouse at Milwaukee preparing herself for the reception into the novitiate which she entered on August twenty-second. She loved the Motherhouse and in later years often recalled the happy days she spent there. As novice she returned to her first convent home, St. Joseph Orphanage, New Orleans. A smile flitted over her countenance when she learned that her old friend, the shoemaker's bench, was awaiting her return. Having filled this post for twenty years, she was summoned to Louisville. After two years her health failed, and it was necessary to send her back to the South. This time obedience assigned her to Chinchuba. Ten years Sister plied the needle and awl in behalf of the deaf-mutes and when a few moments of leisure were hers, she lent a helping hand to her companion Sisters. Her next mission was Chattawa, a place for which she soon conceived a strong attachment. Here in company with two other Sisters she took charge of the convent dairy.
The obituary of our dear Sister Arona would not be complete if the following incident remained unrecorded. During her years of labor at the Pines, Sister and two of her companions built a little house in honor of St. Joseph. They constructed it of lumber taken from discarded cracker boxes. Sister's purpose in doing this was to spread devotion to Saint Joseph and to provide a shelter for those engaged in the field, for often their labor was intercepted by sudden rains. While waiting for the rain to cease, fervent prayers were offered to St. Joseph whose statue occupied a prominent place amid ferns and woodland flowers. Dear St. Joseph was not unmindful of his client's attention. He manifested his pleasure singularly in her last moments.
In 1897 Sister Arona was called to the Motherhouse, Sancta Maria in Ripa, in the hope that a change would relieve her from an obstinate cough which annoyed and weakened her. While at the Motherhouse she made herself useful in the Sister's refectory.
Although transferred to the northern clime Sister Arona's heart and mind seemed ever to be in the southland. She was often heard to express her wish to return, but God did not direct her steps that way, for He knew that "the day was far spent." In the month of March, 1922, some of the community were stricken with a mild form of the grippe and good Sister Arona was one of them. Apparently her condition was not serious or alarming, and therefore she continued to occupy her cell in the community dormitory. The third night of her illness one of the Sisters heard her breathing heavily and she inquired whether she could be of any assistance. On closer investigation she saw a decided change in her features; having awakened some of the other Sisters, she hastened to summon the Sister infirmarian and Mother Provincial. After a hurried preparation the Reverend Chaplain came, heard Sister Arona's confession, anointed her and then hastened to the chapel for the "Bread of Life". She received her divine Spouse and future judge with full consciousness and peacefulness. After praying for some time all retired with the exception of one Sister. About 4:45 A.M. the infirmarian, Mother Provincial, and the Reverend Chaplain were again called; the prayers for the dying were recited and as the bell summoned the Sisters for their morning prayers the soul of our dear Sister Arona went to whisper its first Matins in the eternal mansion. St. Joseph did not forsake his client. He provided for her in her last hour which came in his own month. Sister died March seventh.
Although her death was a shock to all, it, nevertheless, called forth in every heart the desire to be as well prepared as she was. May our dear Sister petition dear St. Joseph for many spiritual and temporal favors for our loved Order.
Thanks to all the good Sisters of Notre Dame for your assistance. I will be forever grateful!!
by: Louise Bernero