It was a bright Tuesday morning in May when I visited Sister Mary Walter Benedict at the villa of Saint Joseph in Reading. She always looked forward to my infrequent visits that we spent together sharing and recalling the growth and changes at Alvernia College. It was the Fall of 1961 when Sister Mary Walter and I were assigned to teach at the college.
Before coming to Alvernia College, Sister Mary Walter taught at Little Flower, an all girl’s Diocesan Catholic High School in Philadelphia. At that time, the Little Flower Faculty was comprised of religious from many different communities.
At Alvernia, Sister was a full-time psychology professor and chair of the Department of Psychology.
Gradually, during our conversation, she began to share her thoughts about her family, about teaching and recruiting at Alvernia, about her dear friend, Sister M. Edmund, her early favorite mission assignment and her surgery.
About her family – Sister Mary Walter mentioned that her family has always been concerned about her and now are frequent visitors at the Villa. She is very grateful that her sisters were blest with happy marriages. Her sister Ave, had heart surgery and Sister Mary Walter emphasized how she prayed for her recovery.
Recruiting and teaching – At Alvernia, her psychology lectures were scheduled for Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. Her recruiting days began on Thursdays when she traveled periodically to Catholic High Schools primarily by bus to New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and other nearby states. When she visited the high schools and talked about Alvernia, the boys often commented: “Aren’t we invited?”. When Sister Victorine became President of Alvernia College in 1970, the first young men were admitted and Alvernia became Coed.
Sister Mary Edmund – Sister Mary Edmund, Mother General of our Bernardine Franciscan Congregation was Sister Mary Walter’s mentor whose friendship she cherished all her life. As our fourth Reverend Mother of our congregation, Mother Edmund was a person of great integrity, had a keen foresight for education and with humility and deep spirituality the congregation grew and flourished. Her nephew John Stesko, is presently in Brazil gathering additional material for writing the biography of Sister Edmund.
Her Early Favorite Mission – Sister Mary Walter recalls the Maternity of the Blessed Mother’s Convent and Marymount School in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania as her most treasured memories where she spent her early religious years teaching and calls it a haven of peaceful community life, pleasant children and gracious parishioners. This was her love and joy.
Surgery – While still at the college, Sister Mary Walter had to undergo heart surgery. During this time she wanted Mother Edmund, her loyal friend to take care of her during her recovery. Mother Edmund realized that this would be a strenuous and taxing responsibility to fulfill this serious request.
The Villa – Sister Mary Walter was reluctant to retire from Alvernia but she continued to follow the growth of the college. However, she spent days praying fervently for everyone and remained a dedicated spouse of Christ and a true educator.
Interviewed by Sister M. Alodia Podczasy, May 11, 1999
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