Remembrance of the Life of Sister Lois (formerly Sister Mary Carol) Dunphy SL
Lois Celeste Dunphy was the second child born to Coloradans Arthur John Dunphy and Edith Louise Malholm Dunphy. Carol was one year older; Phyllis and Lynn were younger.
Lois tells us in her autobiography, “I was born at home on a farm in Eastlake, Colo. A large Target Store occupies the place now. We moved to the farm in Broomfield after my Grandfather Pete Molholm died as a result of being hit by one of the few automobiles — 1925, [when I was 2 years old.]
“I have great memories of early years on the farm — animals, haying, harvesting wheat, straw piles, hay loft, riding animals, swimming in the pond in summer, skating on it in winter. I recall ice cutting for summer use in making ice cream to sell (during the depression years ) in our little ice cream stand. I remember five years of 4-H sewing frustrations and adulations.
“I attended a two-room public school in Broomfield for eight years. The highlights of grade school were the plays and costumes and parties. Our church was a mission church, about seven miles away. Father Lappan at Holy Family in Denver provided a priest to say Mass and the Sisters of Loretto sent two Sisters each Sunday to teach us catechism in our mission church.
“When we were old enough to go to high school, our parents sent us to Holy Family. It was about 14 miles away. My sister Carol wasn’t old enough to drive, so she boarded with a family friend and came home on weekends. I did the same until Carol could drive us.”
At the end of her senior year in May of 1941 Lois wrote to Mother Edwarda, “I should like to enter the novitiate with the October class. I have had this desire since I came to Holy Family, four years ago. It has grown stronger every year. I have spoken to Father Flynn, pastor of Holy Family, and to Sister Rose Denise. I hope that I will be accepted.”
Being readily accepted, Lois arrived at Loretto on Oct. 24, 1941. She was received into the novitiate April 25, 1942, donning the habit and taking the name of her older sister, Carol. When Carol herself entered the novitiate in 1948, Carol took the name Sister Peter Michael. In the late 1960s both resumed their baptismal names.
Following first vows on April 25, 1944, Lois was missioned to St. Ann’s, Normandy, a northern suburb of St. Louis, where she taught second grade for five years. From this one foray into the Midwest, Lois returned to the Rocky Mountains where for the next 25 years she taught elementary grades and served as principal and superior in New Mexico and Colorado, Las Vegas, N.M., Denver and Taos, N.M. Along the way she earned a bachelor’s degree at the Heights in 1954 and a master’s in history, Spanish and education at Creighton in 1961.
About her years in the classroom Lois noted, “I lived at Our Lady of Sorrows in West Las Vegas during the days when Sister Catherine Michael sought ways and means of building a new convent and school; I lived one year in the new place. While teaching at All Souls, Denver, I lived at the Loretto Education Center, [with the novices and young professed], a very happy experience for one year. I went to Taos after the high school had closed. In 1973, while I was principal, I closed the grade school at Taos [which Loretto had opened 110 years earlier]. I returned to Taos for summer school for two years, and in 1976 I helped Sisters Gilbert and Clara move out of the Convent and to Tome, N.M.” Lois returned one more time to Taos, in 1989, living with other Loretto members in the convent and serving as ESL and religious education teacher for three years.
Leaving Taos in 1973, Lois moved to her family’s home in Broomfield, Colo., to care for her elderly parents. Writing of that period, she said, “I know they need help and that this is a service rendered. At the same time I miss my religious living more than anyone knows. I guess it is a real lesson in living, to be away from that which is one’s life.” Lois wrote a little essay for Interchange about her deep appreciation for community, which had its origins in the small farm community where she grew up and found its fulfillment in her Loretto life. “Just as in Loretto we value community, I realize I grew up where there was great community interest in one another, tender heartedness, kindness and collaborative service which drew us together as community.”
After seven years, Lois’s parents were placed in a nursing facility where they died in 1980. For the next 20 years, Lois alternately served parish communities in Louisville, Colorado; and Tome and Taos, N.M.; and in the community of Loretto at St. Mary’s Academy, Englewood, Colo., and Nazareth Hall, El Paso, Texas; finishing up with eight years as office manager for the Loretto Staff in Denver.
In 2001 Lois “retired” to Loretto Denver Center. Retirement in Colorado was Lois’ preference. She and Carol had for years enjoyed vacations in the family’s travel van. Though Lois described herself as “a country girl” who liked a rural setting, she thought she’d prefer staying in Denver. But Carol chose the Motherhouse in Kentucky, accepting an available room on the third floor of the Motherhouse Infirmary in 2003. So Lois also chose Kentucky, telling Anndavid Naeger, “Have room! Will come! This sums up my move to Loretto in a few words. Loretto is a good place to live. Everyone here is sooooo welcoming, helpful, warm and pleasant. I live each day not looking backward but looking forward some and enjoying my coming home to Loretto roots. Besides, I like the country. I want a place to do and store my projects, a room with a view, common meals, a place to walk, the ways and means to go and do things, providing I am able to get some enjoyment out of them.“
Since 2003 Lois has been going and doing all over the Motherhouse. She guided the Community committee on peace and justice, enjoyed cross-stitching and making dream catchers. Every day she spent time in exercise. “I am quite independent using a walker, a four-wheeler with a seat and a basket to carry what I might need. I attend prayers, Mass, all meals in the dining room. I like routine.
“I hope I will be as graceful as my parents in my later years, and that I will behave well. I don’t have any fears.”