Sister Therese Messner, SSND (formerly Sister Stanese)
March 6, 1923 – November 25, 2022
Therese was the first child born to Matthew and Marie (Karl) Messner. She was the oldest child and only child for a number of years. When Therese was three years old, she accompanied her grandmother to visit an aunt in the convent. That left a lasting impression on her young mind.
Therese was taught by SSNDs during her elementary education at Holy Family School, Hanover, Ontario. During a catechism class, her teacher spoke of patron saints and how everyone should imitate her/his patron saint. Therese chose as her patron saint the “Little Flower.” Although she was baptised Theresa, she changed her name to Therese, dropping the “a” like St Therese the Little Flower.
Of the many lessons taught by Sister Stanisia Cwiekala was devotion to the Blessed Virgin. Through the years, Therese never forgot her three “Hail Marys” each night before retiring. During her grade school years, the thought of the future often passed her mind - to be a Sister.
After completing Grade 12 at John Diefenbaker High School, Hanover, she was employed at Swift Canada Company. Aware of her feelings about entering religious life, she moved away from home to avoid conversations about Sisters. In Toronto, she took a government course in chemistry and qualified as an analytical lab technician. Later, she was transferred to Polymer Corporation in Sarnia. During these years she struggled with the thought of becoming a religious.
Therese wrote to Sister Stanisia about making a retreat to help her make a decision about her vocation. Despite difficulties at work to arrange time off, she participated in the retreat in the summer of 1945 at Notre Dame Convent, Waterdown. The following September she entered the candidature and completed her Grade 13 at Notre Dame Academy. In 1946 she was received as Novice Mary Stanese.
After graduating from Hamilton Teachers’ College, Sister Therese taught in schools in Waterloo, Kitchener and Owen Sound. In 1965 she was appointed principal in Chepstow and in 1968 as principal and librarian at Our Lady of Lourdes, Waterloo. She was also principal of St. Patrick School, Caledonia.
Sister Therese spent her summers advancing her education. She took commercial courses from the Ontario College of Education in 1955 and 1956. In 1965 she received her B.A. degree from McMaster University, Hamilton. She attended the principal’s course in Toronto in 1971 and achieved the Librarian Specialist certificate in 1975.
From 1983-1985, Sister Therese was the supervisor of maintenance at Notre Dame of St. Agatha. Her next move was to Saskatchewan as librarian at St. Peter School, Unity. Continuing in Saskatchewan, in 1988 she was pastoral associate at St. Alphonsus, Viscount and later at St. Joseph, Oxbow. On returning to Ontario in 1993, she served as librarian at Notre Dame Convent until 2008.
Sister Therese was well-known for her skill in tatting, crocheting and knitting, Coincidently, when Formosa convent opened in 1872, Mother Caroline stayed a few days and taught knitting in the school. She gave wooden knitting needles to Sister Therese’s grandmother. Sister Therese also often fondly remembered her mother teaching her to knit intricate patterns.
Sister Therese was a deeply spiritual religious. She was a pleasant and cheerful community member, not only in SSND community, but in the school and parish communities as well. She showed an interest in each person.
Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated by Rev. Pablito Labado, chaplain, on November 30, 2022. Due to an outbreak of COVID, attendance was restricted to nieces and nephews. Interment followed at Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Burlington.
Sister Joan Helm, SSND