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Sister Marmion Looks Back Over 100 Years

Sister Marmion and graduates

Adapted from the Missionary Discipleship feature of
The Bishop’s Bulletin May 2024
By Laura Melius 

When Sister Marmion Maiers, a Benedictine Sister of Mother of God Monastery, celebrated her 100th birthday, she also celebrated another milestone – a nearly 100-year-old connection to the Benedictine charism.  

The unfortunate early death of her father forced Alice (S. Marmion’s baptismal name) and her seven siblings and widowed mother off the farm to the small town of Ipswich, South Dakota. The children attended Holy Cross Catholic School, which had been founded in 1915 by the Benedictine Sisters. The Sisters helped the struggling family with both physical and spiritual needs. S. Marmion recalls commodities from “Uncle Sam” and dresses made from flour and sugar sacks. 

Alice entered the convent after the 8th grade, but soon questioned if she had made the right decision. “So, I left the convent,” she said, “and had some worldly experiences.”  

The most memorable of these was a job in Seattle, Washington, where she and her sister became two of the original “Rosie the Riveters” during World War II.

A special highlight of her job working for Boeing was building and signing the 200th B-29 bomber. She described the process of how the women worked on the planes. 

“I can still see myself on the inside of the plane and my sister, or somebody else, out on the outside shooting rivets and the signals that we had to give in order to talk to each other through the plane.” As they tapped on the plane wall, she explained, “One was for ‘a little bit more; two, ‘perfect’; three, ‘Sorry, take it out.’  I was the rivet bucker inside the plane.  I held a steel bar against the wall when they shot the rivet in, and I had to make sure it was straight and the right thickness.”

During this time, Alice continued corresponding with the Benedictine Sisters, and, when her time at Boeing came to an end, she felt a nagging yearning to return.  She wrote to Mother Jerome and her request was granted.

“When I was accepted back, I felt grateful,” she said. “I don’t think I ever had any regrets.  I appreciated that I was taken back, but I also appreciate the experiences that I had when I was out.”

Alice, now Sister Marmion, went on to continue her education, earning bachelor’s and postgraduate degrees in education, history and pastoral ministry. Her master’s thesis was on the history of Stephan Indian Missions, where she and other Sisters taught. 

S. Marmion’s advice at age 100? “Behave like a good Christian. Be yourself, but your best self.  Try to be friendly and give encouragement when possible.”    

Looking back on her life, Sister Marmion is grateful to be a Benedictine, and her joy is evident. “I appreciate the life I had and the good people with whom I lived.  Right from my small years, the Benedictine Sisters were very important in my life.”

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