Former Reed City woman celebrates centennial

Sister Mary Maurita Sengelaub celebrated her 100th birthday with friends and family at the McCauly Center on Thursday, June 28. She expressed how happy and grateful she was to see so many people she loved there for her. (Pioneer photo/Taylor Fussman)

FARMINGTON HILLS —  It is the goal of many to leave a mark on this world and to truly inspire change. As Mary Sengelaub celebrated her 100th birthday on Thursday, June 28, her friends and family reflected on the impression she has had on each of their lives and the incredible impact she has had on the world around her.

Through her awe-inspiring life journey, Mary has served God and humanity as a nurse, a nationally and internationally known health care administrator, an advocate for health care for the poor and indigent, an advisor, mentor and counselor, and a Sister of Mercy nun for over 70 years.

Sister Mary Maurita Sengelaub, known as Sr. Maurita after making her final vows to the Sisters of Mercy in 1951, has traveled across the world and back in her tireless efforts, but she never forgot her roots as the girl from the small town of Reed City or the people she met along the way.

“I must first of all thank God for giving me the parents who took care of me and helped me to become who I am,” Sr. Maurita said about her experiences. “God has been so good to me and all the people I’ve had the privilege to work with, to help, to encourage.”

Sr. Maurita’s ability to positively impact others was clear as more than 100 people gathered in the dining room of the McCauly Center in Farmington Hills, a retirement home for the Sisters of Mercy, to celebrate her birthday and undeniably full life.

After hearing words of kindness from several guests, Sr. Maurita expressed her love for everyone in attendance and anyone who could not attend. She also thanked God for the experiences she has had and the people she has met throughout her life. (Pioneer photo/Taylor Fussman)

Sister Maureen Mulcrone, of the Sisters of Mercy, recounted a few of Sr. Maurita’s many accomplishments, noting while many would credit Sr. Maurita with her work, Sr. Maurita would give the credit to God.

“She always has great faith that God will give her the insight to do the right thing,” Mulcrone said.

She recalled stories from Sr. Maurita’s life, from graduating from Reed City High School and working as a nurse in Reed City and Bay City hospitals after graduating from St. Mary’s School of Nursing in Grand Rapids in 1940, to becoming the first woman, and the first non-cleric, to head the Catholic Health Association.

“I learned so much from her because she is a woman who has led organizations and departments in the community and outside the community,” Mulcrone said. “She knew all kinds of things about managing projects, managing people and developing structures.”

Sr. Maurita gained this knowledge throughout her many life experiences, including working with the Sisters of St. John of God to establish the first Catholic health care system in Australia, obtaining federal funding to start the Migrant Health Program for migrant workers along the East Coast and serving multiple terms in elected leadership positions for the Sisters of Mercy.

Her loved ones would say her long list of accomplishments, while incredible, were only part of what made her exceptional.

“She is one of the most positive, prayerful and optimistic people I know, on top of being really smart,” Mulcrone said. “She is always very welcoming to people and always assumes the best of others.”

The many guests who came to celebrate Sr. Maurita’s centennial birthday echoed this sentiment, saying how vibrant and compassionate their beloved friend is.

Sister Stephanie Holub, of the Sisters of Mercy, honored her friend by writing and singing a song that echoed the story of Sr. Maurita’s life through the dining hall as everyone joined in for the last lines, “We pray God’s blessing rest upon you, in health and prayer and all you do. And your spirit that is planted in our brain it will remain within our heart of mercy.”

Holub explained she wrote a song to capture the calm and Christlike spirit of Sr. Maurita, adding even when she held positions of high authority she was a kind and gentle person.

The love for Sr. Maurita was palpable in the room as her friends and family told her how much she has inspired them in the many years they’ve known her.

Steve Voelker, second cousin to Sr. Maurita, who attended with his siblings Bill Voelker and Mary Davison, and passed along well-wishes from his sister, Sheral Voelker, said Sr. Maurita has a kind spirit and is always more concerned with how other people are doing than talking about herself.

For Sr. Maurita showing people they are loved and cared for is of the utmost importance.

“The building of a wonderful relationship with people who love each other, I think that is one of the most beautiful things,” she said.

Celebrating her 100 years of life with the people she has built relationships with was the best gift Sr. Maurita could have received, and she hopes to spend the rest of her life continuing to inspire others through the love of others and the love of God.

“God leads us in life,” she said with a smile. “As we grow older, as we think and pray, God will send messages to us in many different ways.”

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