Provided by Sarah Morris:
Biography of Sister Eulalia (Mary Berg, 1861-1934), written by Sister Loyola Berry and provided courtesy of Sister Rita Cain, St. Mary’s Monastery, Rock Island, Illinois:
“Sister Eulalia was born on a farm near Nauvoo, January 24, 1861. She was one of five children born to Gabriel and Anne Zimmerman Berg. Sister Eulalia was one of the first boarders at St. Mary’s Academy when it opened in 1874. Sister graduated from the Academy and entered the Novitiate on November 8, 1888 and received the religious habit December 12, 1889. Most of her religious life was spent at the Motherhouse. Sister held many important positions in the community. To name only a few of these offices, she was traveling companion to Mother Ottillia, the Foundress. Sister was procuratrix, had charge of the linen room, was a beautiful seamstress and an excellent cook. She seemed to me to be “jack of all trades and master of all”.
When we were desperately poor, Sister opened our laundry to the public. Her charge for the various items was insignificant. I remember helping her sort the enormous wash; sometimes the sheets reached almost to the ceiling. Her gentle voice and pleasant smile seemed to denote the Presence of God in her daily life.
Sister Alonza was her sister and six years younger. They were very devoted to each other. The only time she consented to leave the Motherhouse was to assist her sister on some mission. One of these times and places was Clinton, Ill. I went there to visit my sister, Sister Ignatia. Sister Alonza detected my vocation and with the permission of Mother Ottillia and Father Cummings, pastor in Clinton, I was permitted to enter in Clinton. Sister Eulalia made my postulant dress, which had 33 pleats. At the time the style was hobble skirts and such a voluminous skirt amused me. I often stood on the second or third step of the stairs and the bottom of my skirt would be on the first step.
When Father Flynn asked us to open a small hospital in Champaign, Sister Alonza was the first superior and dear Sister Eulalia came to help with the washing, sewing, cooking and general work.
Mother Ottillia and Sister Eulalia stayed overnight in my home when I was twelve years old. When they were leaving, Mother gave me an Agnes Dei on a pretty card. On the back of the card, Mother wrote, “To our future bride of heaven,” Her prophecy. Now in the 61st year of my religious life I am grateful that I followed that prophecy.
St. Casimir’s in Streator was Sister Eulalia’s last mission. Sister Alonza was superior. The people loved the Sisters but they wanted Polish Sisters in those days the vernacular was taught in the school.
After the closing of the Streator mission, Sisters Eulalia and Alonza came home and lived in the large dormitory of Spalding Hall. They were very happy. The Blessed Sacrament was in the chapel and Mass was offered every morning. For several years Sister Eulalia was in failing health but Sister Alonza gave her tender loving care. Sister was seriously ill only a few days before her sudden death, Monday, April 23, 1934. The funeral mass was in the parish church. I was teaching in Arlington and I felt the spirit of Sister Eulalia pass me before I heard of her death.
Sister Eulalia was with Sister Alonza on the missions of Clinton, Champaign, Atkinson, Wenona and Streator.
Besides Sister Alonza, Sister Eulalia had a sister Mrs. Margaret Finke, St. Louis, MO, and two brothers, John of Panhandle Texas and Albert, Chicago.”
Biography with the name “Mary Berg Detten” as author. Mary Berg Detten was the daughter of John Charles Berg (niece of Sister Eulalia). Courtesy of Sister Rita Cain, St. Mary’s Monastery, Rock Island, Illinois:
“Mary Berg was born January 24, 1861, on a farm near Nauvoo, Illinois. She was one of ten children born to Gabriel Berg and Anna Mary Zimmerman. She entered St. Mary’s convent November 3, 1888, received the habit on December 12, 1889, made first vows December 13, 1890, made final vows may 31, 1895.
She was baptized April 1861. Passed away April 23, 1934.
Although she spent most of her time at the mother house she was also assigned to various missions at different times. When I attended school at St. Mary’s in the fall of 1906 she had charge of the linen room there. She was a very gentle, kind person and did everything she could to make my life there pleasant. I was only eleven years old at the time and really needed her ‘mothering’.”
“Sister Alonza was born into a devoted family of two sisters and two brothers on a farm near Nauvoo, Illinois. One sister, Sister Eulalia, was a Nauvoo Benedictine. Sister Alonza joined the Notre Dame Sisters in St. Louis, Missouri. The rules of this community were very strict, but Sister chose that way of life. Sister’s father had passed away and her mother, the idol of the family, was taken ill and called for her Annie, Sister Alphonsa, SSND. No home visits were permitted according to the Notre Dame Rule. Sister knew this, but the more she thought of her mother calling for her, the more ardent became her desire to go to her. When she arrived home, her mother was unconscious. Sister knew she could not return to her beloved convent. After the funeral, she came to visit our dear Mother Ottillia. When she entered the parlor she wore the habit of the Notre Dame, but when she came out, she was dressed as a Benedictine, with the name Sister Alonza. She had held many important positions at Notre Dame, and I always felt she regretted her decision to return home.
Sister Alonza was a deeply religious woman highly educated and firm believer in discipline and scholarship. She was superior most of her Benedictine life. Her best intentions were often misunderstood, which caused her great suffering. Her greatest consolation was her devoted sister, Sister Eulalia.
To Sister Alonza, next to God I owe my religious vocation. In the fall of 1912 I had an operation for appendicitis. Then it was considered very serious. The doctor said I should go someplace for a change. I went to Clinton, Ill to visit my sister, Sister Ignatia. Sister Alonza was the superior and made me feel very welcome. Sister recognized my latent vocation and mentioned it to the pastor Dr. Cummings. He obtained permission from Mother Ottillia for me to enter in Clinton, without me knowing anything about it. When I went to say good bye to him, he told me I should enter right away. I told him I could not leave my old father and mother alone. He told me that I was on the road to hell…making idols of my parents. I entered then and there and that’s another story…He scared the life out of me and my vocation into me. I entered and received the cape and veil during Mass in the church.
Clinton was a very Protestant town, but the Bishop wanted the Sisters to teach there. We learned later that the Bishop promised Father Cummings a promotion if he succeeded in getting Sisters. He did and was transferred to a fine parish in Urbana, next to his best friend, Father Wagner in Champaign.
The new pastor in Clinton presented a big problem to the Sisters. He had with him his mother, his sister, a niece, and a housekeeper. He insisted on living in the rectory, which meant that the Sisters would have to move into the “shack” in back of the school, in which Father Cummings had insisted on living. The quarters were very inconvenient to say the least. Since Sister Alonza, superior, and her sister Sister Eulalia did not want to transfer, they were called home to Nauvoo. This was a great cross to Sister Alonza. My sister, Sister Ignacia, was made superior, the youngest superior Mother had ever appointed. The Sisters accommodated themselves to the poor surroundings. Two years later the new school with comfortable accommodations for the Sisters was built.”
Additional biography from Sister Rita Cain, St. Mary’s Monastery, Rock Island, Illinois. Author uncredited:
“Sister Alonza – Anna Berg – was born into a devoted family of two sisters and two brothers on a farm near Nauvoo Illinois, in Appanoose Township in 1868. She was the daughter of Gabriel Berg.
Her natural sister Mary entered the Benedictine Convent in Nauvoo in 1888 and was given the name Sister Eulalia. She was born in 1861 and thus older than Anna. Anna joined the Notre Dame community in 1894 and was known as Sister Alphonsa, SSND in St. Louis. The rules of this community were strict. After Mr. Berg died their mother became ill in 1900 and called for her Annie. No home visits were permitted but Sr. decided to go to her mother. When she arrived home her mother was unconscious and soon died. After the funeral Sister A. came to visit. M. Ottillia. She knew that she could not return to St. Louis and evidently asked to become a Benedictine. She was received and given the name of Sr. Alonza and after 1900 she was a member of St. Mary’s convent, Nauvoo.
An admirer wrote, “Sr. Alonza was a deeply religious woman well educated, a firm believer in discipline and scholarship”.
Sister was stationed in Keokuk 1904-1905, Clinton, Champaign, Wenona, Moline, and Atkinson. Her last mission was St. Casimir’s, Streator. Here Sr. taught the four upper grades in one sacristy while another Sister taught the four lower grades in the other sacristy. The priest and people wished Srs. to teach the Polish language so Ben. closed the mission in 1929.
The death of Sr. Eulalia was difficult for her, in 1934. Sr. A was for a long time in failing health. Here eye sight was poor and she had a general break down in health. On Feb 18 she suffered a stroke and died Feb 22, 1940.
One sister: Mrs. Margaret Finke, St. Louis
Two brothers: John Berg, Pan Handle, Texas and Albert Berg, Michigan”
Your request for information regarding Sister Alphonsa Berg was forwarded to me.
We had a Sister Alonza Berg who entered SSND in 1894; received as a novice in 1896; professed first vows in 1898 and left the community in 1900.
She was born 12/26/1868 in Nauvoo, IL. Parents were Anna Maria Zimmerman and Gabriel Berg. I am assuming that this is the person you are looking for.
We have very little information in the files of sisters from the early 1900s.
Blessings on your search.
Sister Carol Marie Wildt, SSND
St. Louis Province Archivist
320 East Ripa AvenueSt. Louis, MO 63125314-633-7014
(note from SM: it’s unclear why Sister Alonza’s biographer believed she had been called Sister Alphonsa while with the SSND, as the SSND archivist indicates she was Sister Alonza)