The five Straus sisters, back row, from left: Sr. Michaeline, Sr. Caroline, Sr. Mildred; front row, Sr. Christina, Sr. Lucy. Photo courtesy Sr. Lucy Straus

Five Straus sisters born to religious life

By  Denis Gibbons, Catholic Register Special
  • May 31, 2020

Lucy Straus was just a toddler when two of her older siblings left the family’s Waterloo County farm to dedicate their lives to the service of God in the religious life.

Two more sisters would follow and so did Lucy, making it five children from the family of Michael and Mary Straus to become nuns.

“Becoming a teacher and a nun was my childhood dream,” said Sr. Lucy, who was sacristan in the chapel of the St. Joseph’s Motherhouse in Dundas, Ont., when it closed last year.

With the May 15 death of Sr. Mary Michaeline Straus, 98, of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, three of the five nuns are still alive — Sr. Lucy, 85,  Sr. Christina Straus, 88, of the Congregation of St. Joseph, and Sr. Mildred Straus, 91, of the SSND.

“I was blessed with wonderful Catholic parents who lived and taught their faith,” said Sr. Lucy.

“I recall thinking, just a year prior to entering the convent, as bridesmaid at my sister, Adeline’s wedding, ‘I’ll never be walking down the aisle like this.’

“But I haven’t for a moment regretted my decision to follow the Lord as a vowed religious sister.”

Altogether the five nuns from the Straus family have recorded more than 350 years of service to their communities. Although the family produced five nuns, none of their brothers, who are all deceased, became priests.

Thirteen Straus children were born on a farm near the hamlet of Josephsburg, just northwest of Waterloo, Ont. All were born at home. “The doctor would come to the house, sometimes after the baby arrived,” she said. “Those were horse-and-buggy days.”

Two children, Rita Mary and Wilfred Joseph, died when they were only days old.

“We have our own Mary and Joseph in heaven,” Sr. Lucy said. “That’s what I always say.”

Their father did mixed farming and all family members helped with the chores. Sr. Lucy recalls hoeing in the fields, picking vegetables and taking them to the Kitchener market.

The children attended a one-room country school. Sr. Christina was the first teen from the Josephsburg area to attend high school in Waterloo County.

Sr. Lucy remembers going to Christmas Eve Mass by horse and wagon in nearby St. Agatha, the historic centre of Roman Catholicism in the Waterloo Region and the site of the first St. Jerome’s College, which was opened in a log cabin in 1865 by Fr. Louis Funcken.

Sr. Michaeline, the first born, was only 14 when she moved to the Notre Dame Convent in Waterdown as an aspirant. Sr. Mildred was just 13 when she moved there for four years of high school.

For many years Sr. Michaeline attended to the boarders at Notre Dame and was homemaker and cook. Many recalled that as she supervised in the evenings, Sr. Michaeline would be praying her rosary. Then, in 1990, she started using her skills in needlework to assist in an occupational therapy program for the retired sisters.

Sr. Caroline, CSJ, who died in 2018 at the age of 91, was a nurse specializing in pediatrics in Brantford and Kitchener. At various times she served as supervisor of pediatrics and obstetrics at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Brantford and St. Mary’s in Kitchener.

Sr. Mildred taught and served as a missionary in Bolivia and Peru. She also was administrator for a parish in Indian Head, Sask.

Sr. Roseanne Logel, CSJ, former pastoral assistant at Holy Rosary Church in Burlington, taught elementary school with Sr. Christina in Kenilworth, Ont.

“She was very creative,” Logel said. “She taught the children in Grades 1 and 2 how to tap the trees and make maple syrup. She was one of the best I ever taught with.”

Sr. Lucy was an elementary school teacher, and for a time did home visiting at the Cape Croker First Nations reserve.

The Sisters of St. Joseph recently sold their motherhouse and convent in Dundas, with the remaining nuns moving either to a seniors’ home in Burlington or to London. It is now a residence for Chinese students who attend Columbia College in Hamilton.

The Sisters of Notre Dame, meanwhile, are selling their Waterdown convent. In doing so, they’re exhuming the remains of about 300 sisters to relocate at nearby Gate of Heaven Cemetery.

The five Straus nuns have 36 nieces and nephews who Sr. Lucy says are “famous for being super parents to our 104 grand-nieces and nephews.”

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