When the Minnesota Twins play, Sister Mary Schumer keeps her eyes on the ball. If they only knew she’d be their best player in the outfield. Mary, quite reserved, prefers to observe from a distance while taking full responsibility for the task at hand. A ball in the air would soon be a secure catch in her mitt. Mary learned responsibility early in her family’s life.
Mary Schumer arrived on August 15, 1941, at the St. Cloud Hospital, the third of 12 children born to John and Martha (Justin) Schumer. Mary writes, “Ora et Labora—yes, there was plenty of both growing up in a large family on a farm in St. Stephen. It seemed a good preparation for Benedictine living.”
Mary attended grades 1–8 in St. Stephen Public School, St. Stephen, Minn., grades 9–12 in Cathedral High School, St. Cloud, Minn., college at the College of Saint Benedict, St. Joseph, Minn., and various workshops and events throughout the years.
Mary writes, “From very young on, I wanted to be a sister and teacher. As I observed sisters at CHS, I saw happy, kind and professional women. That example helped me choose which community I wanted to be a part of.” Her desire for teaching was realized when she was sent to teach primary grades in St. Cloud (St. Mary’s and Sts. Peter, Paul and Michael) and Long Prairie in Minn.; St. Paul’s in Anaconda, Mont.; Recife, Brazil; and Pine Apple, Ala. Mary writes, “I
enjoyed all my mission experiences. Each gave me opportunities to learn the specific culture (the varied cultures of Montana miners; the black population in Alabama; the Brasilian [sic] people living in poverty) no matter their location. Good friends were made in each place.”
It was in Anaconda where I first met and lived with Mary. In the years I worked with her in Anaconda and later in the monastery, I learned that Mary was an excellent teacher—children and parents loved her; she is a dear friend, devoted to her family, a dependable and thoughtful listener, and an exceptional proclaimer of the WORD. She has a great sense of humor and loves her community. She is a prolific reader, a meticulous sacristan, reliable, kind, caring, and one who continues to work in a computer program that now and then puzzles and frustrates her. She is patient and long-suffering. People who know Mary will know that these are just a few of her many good qualities. Mary says, “Perhaps my love of travel and visiting new places/people was awakened when my obedience took me to Anaconda. I fell in love with the mountains, and years later when in Brazil, I so appreciated the daily views of the Atlantic Ocean.”
Mary mentioned two challenges she remembers. One was “beginning teaching before being fully prepared” and the second was “studying the Brazilian Portuguese language in Brasilia.” I recall another challenge she encountered in September 2010 while on the Tribal Lands of the Haulapae (Wal-lah-pie) Indians. Unaware of her fear of heights, we were about to begin our walk on the glass horseshoe-shaped Skywalk jutting out 70 feet above the Grand Canyon’s huge boulders and jagged peaks. Mary can tell you what happened next better than I, though I will tell you we are still alive.
Lyle Jacobson, a scout for big game hunters, would drive several of us on a Saturday into the mountains in his jeep while looking for game. It was breathtaking to see thousands of mule deer feeding on a mountain side, white mountain sheep darting from rock to rock, or a huge moose staring back at us from a wooded area. Majestic mountains surrounded us. Mary said she has “always been awed by nature and the natural wonders of the world from seeing deer in a field to driving through Yosemite Park; from a spectacular sunset or sunrise to the mind boggling wonders of the vast universe; from learning how cashews grow in João Pessoa, Brazil, and to simply enjoying soft snowflakes falling in St. Joseph.”
Profile written by Ann Machtemes, OSB