Sister Enid Smith: Remembrance

Sister Enid Smith

Sister Enid (Anna) Smith, OSB, 98
St. Joseph, MN
April 13, 1908- January 26, 2007

The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 30, 2007, at the Sacred Heart Chapel, Saint Benedict’s Monastery, St. Joseph, for S. Enid Smith, who died on Friday, January 26, 2007, at Saint Scholastica Convent. Burial will be in the monastery cemetery. Friends may call at Saint Scholastica Convent, St. Cloud, on Monday, January 29, 2007, from 1-6 p.m. or for a Vigil Prayer Service at 7 p.m. at Saint Benedict’s Monastery. Visitation continues at 9 a.m. until the time of the funeral at 3:30 p.m.on Tuesday, January 30.

S. Enid (Anna) Smith was born on April 13, 1908, to John and Sarah (Fleming) Smith in Madison Lake, Minn. She attended the local district grade school and All Saints Junior and Senior High Schools in Madison Lake. She began college at St. Mary College in Prairie du Chien, Wis., and graduated from the College of Saint Benedict with a B.A. degree in Latin. She taught high school at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Wanblee, S. D., before entering Saint Benedict’s Monastery in 1932. She was received into the novitiate on June 18, 1933, made first monastic profession on July 11, 1934, and final monastic profession on July 11, 1937. Sister Enid received an M.A. degree in philosophy from the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, Toronto, Canada, and a Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C… She attended Gonzaga University, Spokane, Wash.; University of Salzburg, Austria; Notre Dame, Ind.; and Georgetown in Washington, D.C.

Sister Enid’s ministry was in education. She taught for five years at St. Patrick’s High School in Eau Claire, Wis. She was well known as a professor of philosophy, dean of residence, and dean of studies at the College of Saint Benedict. She also served on the St. Cloud Hospital Board of Trustees. When she retired from the College of Saint Benedict, she was elected the fifth President of the Federation of Saint Benedict, a position she held for eight years (1973-1981). In 1981 she was asked to do research for Saint Benedict’s Monastery. She moved to Saint Scholastica Convent in 1988 where she helped as sacristan and librarian.

Sister Enid is survived by her Benedictine community, nieces and nephews. Five brothers (Leo, Charles, Edward, Walter, and Joseph) and four sisters (Mary Biehn, Stacia Grams, Ethel and Helen Smith) are deceased.

The following was delivered by Sister Colman O’Connell on January 29, 2007

I am honored this evening to read these words of remembrance for Sister Enid Smith, composed by her friend, Sister Mary David Olheiser.

At the time of her monastic profession, Sister Enid Smith prayed, “Sustain me, O Lord, as you have promised and I shall live; do not disappoint me in my hope!” And now this evening as we, her Benedictine Sisters, her family, relatives, friends and colleagues accompany her in her return to this Chapel, we prayed again: “Sustain her, O Lord, as you have promised and she shall live; do not disappoint her in her hope.” Death was not seen by Sister Enid as an end of life but as a part of life –an ultimate moment in her history, a preparation for the glorious life with God in heaven. The self Sister Enid presents to God is not static, but a self that gradually unfolded and grew as she confronted the lifelong redemptive question: “Whom do you seek –God or yourself?”

The archival materials in Sister Enid’s file, particularly her oral history and copies of some of her lectures, help us to understand her family’s influence, her intellectual gifts, her ministry in higher education, her leadership, and her daily witness. Love, care, concern, respect, faith, endurance, and a sense of wonder were learned from her relationship with her parents and siblings. Her mother died when she was 14 years old; her father’s kindness and sense of humor became the framework of the Smith home while the ten children were forced to become more self-reliant and caring of their younger sisters and brothers.

Picturing Anna Smith as a studious child with books as her constant companions is not difficult. She recalled walking four miles to and from the Madison Lake District School, giving her time to compose her writing assignments and to memorize poetry, proverbs, stories and the entire Baltimore Catechism. After completing Senior High School in Madison Lake, Anna was awarded a scholarship to attend St. Mary’s College at Prairie Du Chain, Wisconsin for her first two years of college. When St. Mary’s relocated, Anna chose to transfer to the College of Saint Benedict. In her senior year, she was hired to teach Latin and English at St. Benedict’s Academy on campus. (It was then that I first met Miss Smith and named her my favorite teacher.) After graduating from college, Anna accepted a teaching position at the Pine Ridge, Indian Reservation in South Dakota. After her two year teaching at Pine Ridge, Anna sought admission to the monastery here. And for Anna the one determinant of the Benedictine way of life was that you must want it and enter into it with a leap of faith!

We, her Benedictine Sisters, know Sister Enid Smith as a research scholar, an outstanding philosophy professor and Academic Dean at the College of Saint Benedict and a Benedictine witness to the love of God and of learning. Her life ministry was teaching, a career that spanned four decades. Her high expectations and probing questions stimulated the intellectual growth of her students: giving them the key to unlock other doors of knowledge. Many of her philosophy students remember being tested on the metaphysics of a dimple when Sister Enid read one of her favorite poems of Leonard Feeley, “Admiring Maura”

  The metaphysics of a dimple
Is rather more involved than simple.
But when she smiles, at seven weeks,
Two pretty nothings in her cheeks
Make Maura most admired where she
Is Maura most reluctantly.
For nature capers most with grace
Through unfulfillments in her face;
And one sees most to rave about
By looking at what God left out.

Moreover, some of us remember her philosophizing on Feeley’s poem about the snail:

  Snails obey the Holy
Will of God slowly.

Sister Enid was also repeatedly called into leadership roles in administrative positions in the college, on committees on higher education, in the monastic council, as trustee at the St. Cloud Hospital, and as president of the Federation of Saint Benedict. She was active in helping to establish the United States Leadership Conference for Women Religious.

Recognition and awards were accorded to Sister Enid Smith. In 1939, in recognizing her potential as a research scholar and philosophy professor, Saint Benedict’s sent her to Toronto, Canada, to attend the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies in order for her to study under the internationally known philosophers, Etienne Gilson and Jacques Maritain. In 1947 Sister Enid earned a Doctorate in Philosophy from the Catholic University of America. Post doctoral study and research to keep abreast of her field, took her to the University of Salzburg. When Sister Enid reached retirement age in 1973, the Board of Trustees of the College of Saint Benedict named her Professor Emerita. With that recognition, she was empowered to teach any self designated course on any schedule of her choice! In 1980 Sister Enid was the recipient of the College Presidential Medal and, on that occasion, in expressing her gratitude to President Emmanuel Renner, gave her charmingly creative and witty philosophical speech entitled: “In Defense of the Useless.” Her family also honored Sister Enid by asking her to conduct seminars for them at their Washington Lake Home and by establishing a College of Saint Benedict Scholarship in her honor.

In 1988 Sister Enid chose to retire from active ministry and to live at Saint Scholastica Convent so that she could perform personal services for the sick and elderly sisters living there. Daily she visited the sick in Louise Hall, to read to them and pray with them. In her years of retirement Sister Enid referred to her 50th Jubilee Family Gift Quilt as her memory quilt! During her 18 years at Saint Scholastica Sister Enid never lost her good humor, wit, and delight in the ordinariness of life. Sister Alard frequently reported her witty remarks in the monastery’s Community News.

The Benedictine monastic way of life produces spiritual guides, living examples and interpreters of the Rule of Benedict, who become wisdom figures for the rest of us, walking the way of life with us. For many of us Sister Enid was a mentor, a wisdom figure, a loved professor, a colleague, and a friend. Assuredly for me, Sister Enid was my mentor, professor, colleague, friend, and my icon of hope! The focus and intent of Sister Enid’s life seemed to be an exploration and a deepening of her relationship with God within the stuff of her daily life experience. She seemed always to wrestle with and to wrestle for the light of truth!

The Scripture Readings this evening remind us that death is a Visitation of God who promised immortality to those who trust Him and who have lived in His Love.

Sister Enid, we are confident that God has already welcomed you as a woman of faith following the wisdom of the prophet Micah: “to live reverently, act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly before God.” In heaven your soul is now riveted upon the God of truth and light for ever!

Tribute to Sister Enid Smith at her Funeral
By MaryAnn Baenninger, CSB President

January 30, 2007

When I accepted the Presidency at the College of Saint Benedict three years ago, I was very much impressed with St. Benedict’s being the only Catholic women’s college to be ranked among the top national liberal arts colleges in the country. It is, moreover, one of only three Catholic colleges in that group.

So, I was eager to explore the history of St. Benedict’s, being certain that only a college with a strong foundation and with wise founders and builders could have achieved this current stature. Then, as I examined the past, listening to stories of alumnae and former professors, I noticed that invariably they identified Sister Enid Smith as the model, intellectually gifted professor, whose habits of deep and broad scholarship, and whose skill in teaching with gentle wit inspired generations of our students genuinely to love learning.

While the College today is grateful for Sister Enid’s successful leadership as Dean of Academic Affairs from ’47 to ’57 (when that office included some of the responsibilities of president), we are most grateful for her contribution to the very heart of the collegiate experience, that of teaching and learning, as Professor of Philosophy.

We realize that President Stanley Idzerda, in 1973, agreed with our assessment of Sister Enid’s life work. In that year, he honored Sister Enid’s achievement in the classroom by naming her the first Professor Emerita, with the title of Professor of the College, invited to teach any course at any time.

Today the College of St. Benedict joins St. Benedict’s Monastery in mourning the loss of this cherished friend and in remembering with gratitude and affection Sister Enid Smith as a truly great and scholarly teacher.