Waltrude Dennis, CSJ

We remember her in the blowing of the wind and the chill of winter

October 4, 1918 – February 19, 2021

In the Book of Psalms of Sacred Scripture, we often read that a long life is a sign of God’s favor. Ps 21 states “I asked you for life; you gave me length of days forever and ever” and Ps. 90 proclaims that “Seventy is the sum of our years or eighty if we are strong”.  What then can be said of Sister Waltrude, whose life span encompassed one-hundred-two years!

 Mary Hofbauer Dennis was born in Medford, one of five children of Paul and Lucy Dennis. With her brother Benjamin and her sisters Theresa, Elizabeth (Betsy), and Lucy Sister Waltrude grew up in Everett, attending Immaculate Conception School and Everett High School. In elementary school, she had encountered the Sisters of St. Joseph so when she recognized that God was calling her to religious life her choice was to join the congregation.

 Most of Sister Waltrude’s ministerial life was focused on elementary school teaching. Indeed, she spent forty-seven years in an elementary classroom and an additional five years as a teacher of art. Like many teachers, she often remembered her students’ names from years ago. Some of our Sisters remarked that Sister Waltrude always asked about their brothers, whom she taught at Sacred Heart, Roslindale, in the 1950s.

 In 2005, when the convent at St. Pius, Lynn, was closing, Sister was “retired” but was preparing the altar linens for the church one day a week, teaching religious education another day, doing clerical work, such as parish mailings, on the third day and was taking care of supplies for the school on the fourth day. Sister Waltrude tried to keep the fifth weekday free because she was “retired’. Following her years at St. Pius, Sister Waltrude moved to St. Joseph’s, Medford, where she continued her ministry in a variety of ways for an additional nine years.

 My first encounter with Sister Waltrude was at Bethany. It happened to be a summer day when she was trying to coax an ancient transistor radio to broadcast the Red Sox game. I learned quickly just how avid a fan she was. Whenever I would stop by to ask about the score of a game I would get a rundown of the team’s statistics, a commentary on the player at-bat (or the pitcher), and her recommendations for trades for the coming season.  I was always amazed at her active mind.

 Despite failing eyesight Sister Waltrude remained fiercely independent, caring for herself as much as she was able. In her ministry, she had cared for so many others, both in the classroom and in her acts of kindness, delivered, it was said, “from the convent’s back door”.  When word spread that Sister Waltrude had gone home to God, many stories surfaced – stories of her compassion, stories of her fidelity, stories of her humility. Of one thing we are certain – that Waltrude went forth to meet her God with her hands full.  We wish this strong but gentle woman eternal blessings of light, peace, and happiness!

 Given by Judith Costello
February 22, 2021