Remembrance of the Life of Sister Dorothy (formerly Sister Mary Stephanie) Scheopner SL
Dorothy Ann Scheopner was the first of eight children born to Henry Joseph Scheopner of Windhorst, Texas, and Mary Ann Stroyek of St. Joseph, Mo. Although Dorothy and her sister Lee were born in Goodland, Kan., the family soon settled in Longmont, Colo., where Dorothy and Lee grew up with five brothers and their youngest sister. They attended St. John the Baptist School under the guidance of Benedictine priests and Franciscan Sisters. In 1957, the parish priest wrote in a reference for Dorothy, “The Henry Scheopner Family have been in this parish for nearly 20 years and they sustain an excellent reputation. The children have steady habits, honest and conscientious.”
Dorothy was a senior, about to graduate from Longmont Public High School, when a neighbor who served on the board of directors of the school recommended Dorothy to Doctor and Mrs. Frank McGlone. Dorothy wrote about this opportunity, “Late that summer I started working for the McGlones as a full-time, live-in Nanny! I made breakfast for Dr. McGlone before he went to work. I took care of the children and did all kinds of things in the house. Before that year was up they had another house being built in Littleton. They were going to move and they wanted me to go with them. Mrs. McGlone got me a small car — to run errands, etc.
She continued, “One evening they both wanted to speak with me. They thought I should go to the Heights. So I got what you call a ‘merit scholarship!’ I went to school and continued taking care of the children.
“At the Heights I took [the associate degree program in] secretarial studies, so after two years, I graduated. Because of all the neat nuns I had met at the Heights — [Sister Mary Mangan and Sister Marie Clyde especially] — I decided to go to Loretto. Mrs. McGlone had a last lunch for me with just their family. When the Doctor left to go to the Denver Clinic, … and it was time for me to leave, I could not find my tiny black purse anywhere. And it contained my plane ticket to Louisville, Kentucky! I could visualize my purse on the Doctor’s car and told Mrs. McGlone. She said she would call Dr. McGlone and asked him to bring it back. I knew I would not see my purse again, as he had to travel over the Santa Fe railroad tracks before he got to work. But she called and asked Doctor to check his car in the parking lot. And sure enough — there was my tiny black purse on the side back wing of his car. God said loud and clear: Come follow me — and I did.”
Dorothy entered Loretto on Sept. 8, 1957, in the company of six other students from Loretto Heights. Altogether 37 were received May 24, 1958. Dorothy took the name Sister Mary Stephanie; sometime after final vows she returned to her baptismal name. Two years later, after first vows on May 31, most of the group went to the St. Louis House of Studies to complete their degrees. Dorothy graduated from Webster College in July of 1962 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a minor in social studies.
From 1962 to 2000, almost 40 years, Dorothy taught elementary school-aged children, in primary and upper grades and one-on-one in special education and tutoring programs. She began with six years in Louisville, at Christ the King and then at Guardian Angels. In 1967 Dorothy moved to St. Louis, teaching five years in a succession of schools: Immaculate Conception in Maplewood, St. Rose of Lima, and finally Visitation-Holy Ghost. In 1972, Dorothy joined the faculty of the Loretto Learning Center, under the direction of Sister Helene McLeese, the same location where Dorothy had lived a decade earlier when it was the House of Studies.
For 16 years Dorothy provided personalized tutoring for individual students; her final two years she served as co-director of the Learning Center. Of that time, Sister Dorothy said, “I taught 4th, 5th, and 6th graders all subjects; the classes were one-on-one for one hour. I taught summer school and was in charge of registering elementary students, while Sister Magdalen Mary was in charge of registering high school. News spread fast that we had a great program with qualified teachers.”
In 1988 Dorothy returned to Colorado, enjoying some sabbatical months and living with her sister Lee, whom she called her “best friend,” in Arvada. Dorothy continued to live with Lee as she began more than a decade of service at the Havern School and Rhodes Tutoring Center, both on the grounds of Loretto Center in Littleton. She taught small classes during the school year at Havern, and in the summers Dorothy joined retired Sisters tutoring individuals in the Rhodes Center program on
the first floor at Loretto Center. In 2000 when Dorothy turned 65 and retired from teaching, she had been teaching and tutoring individual students year-round for 28 years.
Dorothy next turned to elder care, offering her services and her cheerful spirit to Sister-retirees at Loretto Center and working at the Seniors Resource Center as a personal care provider, supporting seniors so they could remain in their homes. Dorothy continued her very active life until cancer surprised her in 2016. She moved to the Loretto Motherhouse Infirmary for her own care in January 2017. Dorothy’s novitiate classmate, Mary Ellen McElroy SL, wrote, “Dorothy loved her family – every one of them – and was close to them. It was quite hard for her to leave Denver because of that closeness. And she was the beloved of the people she served – the elderly she visited and cared for at the Senior Center. While she was living at the Center prior to going to Kentucky many of those folks called her often, and sent her notes!”
A tribute written by Barbara Ann Barbato SL at the time of Dorothy’s Golden Jubilee included these words: “Dorothy’s love of teaching students, especially those with learning disabilities, has been only one aspect of her ministry. She has been, quietly and simply, a good neighbor to everyone among whom she has lived.” Dorothy herself wrote in a similar vein, “Now that I am older, I enjoy living alone because I enjoy quiet and profound peace. I share my apartment with friends and other Sisters whenever I can. I live simply and quietly, helping my neighbors. I keep in touch with friends I made at other apartments, especially with those people who need help.”
When she applied to join Loretto, Dorothy had written, “I want to become a religious so that I may learn to love God more and to do the things that please Him the most. … If you take me, I will look forward to happy years as a Lorettine and a bride of Christ.” For almost 60 years, Dorothy lived her Loretto life joyfully faithful to her original intention.
– By Eleanor Craig SL