Michaela Mueller
SFCC: 1970-2006

One of our charter members has left us. Michaela Mueller, who made her commitment to SFCC in July, 1970 and who was the 10th person to do so, passed to eternity August 2, 2006, succumbing to a stroke, the result of the disease of dementia and/or Alzheimer's. Michaela came to SFCC after 33 years with the Franciscans in Oldenburg, Indiana, where she earned academic degrees in Chemistry, Biology, Latin and Math (Marian College, Indiana) and a Masters in Physics (Purdue University). Michaela taught science and was head of the science department at Scecina Memorial High School in Indianapolis, IN. As an OSF (Order of St. Francis), Michaela studied at the National Institute of Health in cancer research. Michaela organized city-wide science fairs in Indianapolis and also initiated the Indianapolis Archdiocesan Teachers' Institute (1956) and was a charter member of the Indianapolis Association of Science and Math Teachers.

Two successive and serious back injuries moved Michaela out of the science laboratory and into the theology classroom. Her degree research on Phillipines 2:5-11 in the original Greek resulted in her being the first woman elected as a fellow in advanced theological studies at Harvard University. From that time forward, Michaela immersed herself in the teaching of religion.

And that is what she did until 1968-70 when she was assigned to a special task force to project religious life into the future as it was being mandated by Vatican II. As part of her research, Michaela wrote to Lillanna (Audrey) Kopp solely to inquire about her own ideas of new forms of religious life. Consequently, Michaela’s report to the Oldenburg Franciscans emphasized the projected closure of community schools and traditional convent living, all of which would give way to self supporting employment in the public sector under the mantle of new ministries. Based on these findings, Michaela, along with a four other OSFs , who included Gertrude Campbell (who eventually withdrew from SFCC), requested permission to leave traditional community life to be self supporting and try new ministries for one year. Michaela argued that this experiment was both in line with Vatican II mandates and with the Franciscan spirit.

The reply arrived from the OSF administration on July 18, 1970. It was notice to each in the group of "a rescript of secularization and, dispensed from vows, [each was to] return to the Sacraments in the manner of lay people." (Quote from Michaela's archive memoir file). Unable to reach Lillanna (who was aboard the World Campus Afloat) by telephone that night of July 18, 1970, Michaela and Gertrude Campbell decided to sign their letters of dispensation; and, in the presence of the local parish community at the next day's liturgy, make their commitments to SFCC. And so they did, with Michaela being the tenth member of SFCC, and Gertrude the ninth.

From that day forward Michaela was an outspoken advocate of SFCC as the best expression of the Vatican II mandate on religious life renewal. Here I will let others remember Michaela in their own words:

Michaela was the woman who introduced me to our way of visioning and also was my guide as I journeyed toward affirmation. She will be missed, though the last eight months of her life were a prelude to her not being with the living through the disease of dementia and/or Alzheimer's. May she rest in peace! Keith Albrecht, bfcc

During the '80 and '90 when I was in Bloomington, IN, I had the blessing to be around Michaela, she was one of the best SFCC, her love for the community was notorious, her compassion of care for people was remarkable. Always her comments were very interesting and full of wisdom. I learned from her a lot about religious life and commitment. May each one of us, while mourn for her, praise God and be grateful for her life and feel real blessed to have her in our lives if we knew her. Luz Mestas Nuñez, SFCC

While I will mourn her passing, I know she has suffered much these past years. I recall her from her "good" years as a visionary and enthusiastic SFCC. At Assembly I sought her out for her insight and wisdom. Fran Campbell

I remember that Michaela left her other community in order to work with the poor and went to Chicago to minister there. Beth Grismer

I found her to be so courageous, as she suffered many setbacks in her life, and she inspired me endlessly with her fortitude and positivism... I am sad that she had to suffer yet another debilitating disease after all she had already been through in her life: dementia... and indeed now she is freed of it all. The inspiration she has been will live on forever. Teri Takken in The Netherlands

Michaela Mueller is survived by three brothers, Fred, Charles and Clarence, as well as two sisters, Margaret and Eileen. Her first cousin, Mildred Homan, was faithfully attentive during Michaela's final years and days. A memorial Mass was celebrated at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Coldwater, OH. Michaela donated her body to the Ohio State University Department of Anatomy.

Submitted by SFCC Archivist, Fran Campbell

Last updated: September 7, 2006