Home » Obituaries » Remembrance of the Life of Sister Pauline (formerly Sister Mary Agnesetta) Albin SL

Remembrance of the Life of Sister Pauline (formerly Sister Mary Agnesetta) Albin SL

Posted on February 18, 2024, by Eleanor Craig SL

Sister Pauline (formerly Sister Mary Agnesetta) Albin SL
Jan. 25, 1933 – Feb. 18, 2024

Loretto Sister Pauline (formerly Sister Mary Agnesetta) Albin died Feb. 18 at the Loretto Living Center in Nerinx, Ky. Pauline had been accompanied by many Community members in her final days; she died quietly near midnight with the pastoral care staff by her side. Pauline was 91 and in the 72nd year of her religious life. She had served in St. Louis, Louisville, Ky., Santa Fe, N.M., and Ghana, Africa.

Our sister Pauline has left us her story in her own words.  The following has been retrieved from several sources.  In one place Pauline introduces herself thus: “I was born … into a very Catholic family …, the eighth of 12 children. My parents moved the family into a small house next to the parish church where our lives in the Catholic faith were deeply nourished.  Ever since I was a small child I long to consecrate my life totally to the service of God. Since I was a girl and knew I could not be a priest, I always figured that I would be a ‘nun.’ In high school my interests were basketball, softball, volleyball, varsity cheerleading and polka dancing in our small Czech village.

“I have memories of happy childhood days spent with my brothers and sisters.  Daddy [Francis Elmer Albin] was a loving father and good husband providing for us all.  He was editor and publisher of a small weekly “The Brainard Clipper, ” which he produced in our garage.  Mother [Anne Antoinette Novacek] was a hard worker and very creative in imaginative games and educating us children.  All ten of us [twins Margaret Ann and Loretta Marie died in infancy] were educated at Holy Trinity Parish School in Brainard and Assumption High School in Dwight.  I began working part-time as a pre-teen, on farms and family homes in our neighborhood … and helped my mother write small town news for my father’s newspaper. Through high school I did cleaning for the school and worked summers at neighborhood poultry farms.

“At age 18 in 1951, when I graduated from 13 years of education with the Omaha Notre Dame Sisters, I applied to enter the Sisters of Loretto, which my aunt, Sister Mary Leon, had joined a generation ahead of me. The summer before I entered, I joined Sister Leon at Mary Queen of Peace in Webster Groves, Mo., where she was superior.  She aided me in getting ready to enter the Novitiate in October, and I worked as the convent cook in the meantime. 

“Novitiate days were very special and meaningful to me, the only difficult part being the break from my home and family.  At reception I was given the name Sister Agnesetta. I was in the first class to open the House of Studies under Sister Helen Jean.  After receiving my AB in elementary education from Webster College, I was assigned to teach primary grades at Christ the King School in Louisville’s west end, for five years.  Then I spent four years teaching at Sacred Heart and Pius V in St. Louis.”

Pauline’s personnel file contains all the “bulls” assigning her to various schools, including three changes of work in four years: Christ the King to Sacred Heart and then Pius V.  With the notice to move to Pius, Pauline received a note from Sister Michaela, her provincial superior, saying, “I hate to write you this letter because of the change it involves.  After just one year, it seems heartless to pull you out again.  But we need you at St. Pius to take Sister Helene’s place. … As you know so well, our House of Studies sisters go there for their training, and we feel you can help us in that way.  … I do pray for you, Sister.”  

Three years later, Pauline got another reassignment, to return to Christ the King in Louisville, as principal.  Pauline wrote at the time, “The school, which had been over 650 all white pupils [when I left] was 250 students [when I returned four years later], exactly 50 % black and 50% white.  These years were the Civil Rights era of the ‘60s, and I saw the neighborhood and parish first integrate and then become African-American.” Pauline’s file is full of evidence that she did far more than serve as principal in these years. There are many newspaper articles and photos of demonstrations and multi-racial meetings.  A lengthy article from the Catholic paper the Record in 1979 recounts Pauline’s 15 years at Christ the King, including Pauline’s comments: “Sister Pauline noted that the fewer numbers of students (170 in 1978) has had some advantages. … She can call every student and teacher by name and knows most of their parents too. ‘We have grown to be a family school, a small, intimate, caring school,’ Sister Pauline said. When Sister Pauline became principal in 1965, she said she had problems with her self-identity, being a white religious in what was quickly becoming a black environment.  She said a black-white retreat she attended in 1967 helped her gain a new perspective.  ‘I wasn’t accepting my whiteness. I had been telling the students they should be themselves and be proud of their roots, yet I was denying mine.  I finally realized that you don’t have to be a black person to relate to, love, and be accepted by black people.’ “

The newspaper article went on to quote Pauline as saying, “’I’ve always felt a call to serve minorities.’ Sister Pauline noted that she was brought up in what she called a Czechoslovakian ‘ghetto’ in a small Nebraska town.”  

Writing a summary of her life in 2015, at the time she moved to the Loretto Living Center, Pauline wrote: 

“Among the highlights of my consecrated life have been the multicultural blessings of many communities, starting in my native Czech village of Brainard, Neb., then my work in Louisville.  In 1979 I moved to Santa Fe, N.M., where I served 13 years at St. Francis Cathedral School as principal and in religious education. The time in Santa Fe was another opportunity in multicultural ministry, with Native American and Mexican American communities.  In 1993 I went to Ghana, West Africa, the fulfillment of a childhood dream.  There I taught five years at a girls’ high school in a remote village. Then followed 13 years as assistant director of catechetics for the Diocese of Sunyani.  During this time, I was vice chair of the Ghana National Catechetical Commission and represented Ghana at a meeting in Lagos, Nigeria.  In addition, I was administrator of a diocesan retreat center available for groups of many religious persuasions.”

In 2017, Pauline had a chance to reconnect in Louisville with many with whom she had helped build bridges. At a gala ceremony, attended by many Loretto members and friends, she was honored by the African American Catholic Ministries of the Archdiocese of Louisville with the Acacia Award, given for her 19 years of service, support and fidelity to the African American Catholic community at Christ the King.  Pauline’s response at the time was characteristic: “I love belonging to the Loretto Community. … I cherish the call to work for justice and act for peace because the Gospel urges us.”

 Please keep Pauline, her family and loved ones in your prayers. May she rest in peace.

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Eleanor Craig SL

Eleanor has been a Sister of Loretto since 1963 and an educator since birth. She graduated from two of Loretto's best known St. Louis institutions, Nerinx Hall High School in 1960, and Webster University in 1967. She taught mathematics at Loretto in Kansas City, where her personal passion for adventure history inspired her to develop and lead treks along the historic Oregon Trail. From 1998 to 2010 she created an award-winning program of outdoor adventure along the Western trails for teens who are visually impaired. Eleanor claims to have conducted more wagon trains to the West than the Mountain Men! From 2012 to 2021, Eleanor led a talented staff of archivists and preservationists at the Loretto Heritage Center on the grounds of the Motherhouse. She recently retired, but still serves in the Heritage Center as Loretto Community Historian.

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1 Comment

  1. Avatar Lori Phillips Moore on February 21, 2024 at 12:56 am

    I remember Sister Pauline back in the ’70s as the principal at Christ the King School in Louisville Ky. Sending my condolences and prayers.

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