Editor’s Note: Sr. Mary Simplicia of the Cross (Marian Lawecka – died July 18, 1963) was one of the very few who had the good fortune of meeting our Foundress, Blessed Mary of Jesus the Good Shepherd (Frances Siedliska).
Following in her eldest sister’s, Sr. Pancratius, footsteps, Marian entered Nazareth. Several years later, their two younger sisters Sr. Laura and Sr. Marinelle joined the community, making them the first “Nazareth Quartet” in the history of the Congregation.
We are delighted to share with you this story from Sr. Simplicia. She writes, “So it was during the time of Mother Lauretta’s time in the Academy in Chicago that I had all kinds of adventures, more than any other of the girls... I was of a very lively disposition and God endowed me with a brilliant memory, that made me useful at times, but also at times prone to mischief as one can see from the following ‘Escapades’… Enjoy reading and have a good hearty laugh, which is so beneficial to health.”
At that time, the Holy Family Academy did not have a private chaplain until 1900. In the meantime, the Resurrection Father from St. Stanislaus Parish would perform the sacred functions besides the daily Holy Mass, also the Benediction on Holydays and Midnight Mass on Christmas.
After the vigil-supper on Christmas Eve, all the sisters retired for a nap to be up at midnight for Meditation, Office, and Holy Mass. However, we girls, or should I call it the famous Academy Choir, decided to refrain from sleeping so our voices would be primed for ‘singing’ instead of ‘yawning.’ Since we would be awake, I was assigned the Portress for that night.
We all went down to the small Music Room and sang the new Christmas Carols we previously learned to be sure we knew them well for Midnight Mass. As I made my way into the Music Room, I placed the key on the piano and sang away with the Academy Choir, practicing every carol (some even twice) so that we would be perfect for Midnight Mass. We sang for quite a while, and when we finished, we all dispersed and went on our way. As designated Portress for the evening, I remained on the first floor, awaiting any visitor who would be calling upon the sisters and paying attention for Reverend Father, who would be arriving to prepare for Midnight Mass.
I was quietly replaying the Christmas Carols in my head when all of a sudden, the doorbell rang! I reached for the key in my pocket, but it was not there. Where could the key have gone? I then remembered setting it down on the piano, so I rushed down to the Music Room with great haste, went directly to the piano to retrieve the key, but it was not there, either! Where did the key go? At this point, I became extremely frantic; the Reverend Father needed to get into the chapel to prepare for Midnight Mass. Within that moment, I did what any logical person would have done... I ran to one of the parlors, opened the window, put out a stool, and asked the Reverend Father to get on the stool and jump in through the window because I lost the key.
Upon hearing the Reverend Father’s second doorbell chime, which happened while I was grabbing the stool, Mother Provincial and Mother Superior came out from the chapel while I was encouraging the priest to simply hop on the stool and jump in through the window. After all my tearful begging, the Reverend Father looked at me and said but one word, “Crazy!” He then turned around and went home. Running out of the parlor, I bumped right into Mother Superior, who asked me, “Marylka, why don’t you open the door?” Crying, I answered, “I lost the key!”
Sister Superior took out her key and moved to open the door, but I said through my tears, “Father is gone. I told him that I lost the key, and I offered him a stool to jump in through the window, but he called me ‘Crazy’ and turned back to the rectory.” Mother Superior immediately called another girl and told us to run to the rectory. I was told to apologize and ask Father Superior to send the priest because it was getting close to Midnight Mass. We both ran to the rectory and asked for
Father Superior. He answered the door, and I proceeded to tell him my sorrowful tale. As I explained to him about the stool and encouraging the Reverend Father to jump through the window, Father Superior began to laugh uncontrollably. I asked him what was so funny, and he began to explain that the priest who had come to visit was not the most athletically framed man and would have had great difficulty fitting through the window. Father Superior called the priest who had initially come to say Mass to let him know we had found a key to open the door, but the priest refused to come and celebrate Mass. Nevertheless, Father Superior told us to go home and that the priest would be over soon.
With that, we ran home, a distance of two blocks, and Mother Provincial was standing on the corridor awaiting the news. We told her that the priest would be here in no time and immediately ran up to join the choir, who had already begun singing. The priest came, much to my relief, and celebrated Midnight Mass. While we were away pleading with Father Superior at the rectory, all the girls came down on the corridor asking about Midnight Mass. Mother proceeded to tell all about me misplacing the key and telling the priest to crawl through the window.
The next day, one of the girls came to apologize because she hid the key. In fact, she hid it so well that she did not remember just where she placed it, but acknowledged it was an awful trick!
Sr. M. Simplicia of the Cross, CSFN