Sister Marcella Schmalz’ Celebrates 100th Birthday

Miranda Holman
Paris Express

Sister Marcella Schmalz, OSB, celebrates her 100th birthday on July 5, 2020. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, her community will not be able to commemorate this occasion as they would like; however, they will be celebrating her milestone in simplicity, strength, and the sweetness that is befitting to Sister Marcella.

She is a native of Paris, Arkansas. Helen Agnes Blunk and Ed Schmalz welcomed her into their family along with her siblings, Alice, Hilda, and Irene before her, and later, Roy and Estelle. Estelle is the only one still living.

After graduating from eighth grade at St. Anne School in Carbon City near Paris, she worked for a few years on the family farm. When she was 16, her older cousin asked her to go with her to California, where Sister Marcella’s two older sisters were already living. In Los Angeles she took care of children in their homes a few years, then became a licensed beautician.

After working as a beautician for a few years, Sister Marcella followed the calling to be a Sister that she had felt from the age of eight. On August 11, 1943, she entered St. Scholastica Monastery. She received the religious name of Sister Mary Benoit. As part of her Benedictine calling, her ministries took her to various places in Arkansas. She worked at St. Joseph's Parish in Center Ridge, Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Lake Village, Assumption School in Atkins, St. Joseph's Orphanage in North Little Rock, the Bishop's House in Little Rock, Crawford County Hospital in Van Buren, and St. Joseph's Hospital in Boonville, Missouri.

In 1971 she became one of the five founding members of St. Scholastica Monastery's second daughter house, St. Benedict’s in Canyon, Texas. Sister Marcella was in Canyon for forty-six years. She served the community in various roles, as a vocation and oblate director, subprioress, as members of the advisory boards, as a cook-dietician, gardener, and healthcare worker at St. Anthony's in Amarillo. She also spent time working at St. Ann's Parish in Canyon. The foundation of St. Benedict's Monastery closed in 2017 following the death of its prioress, Sister Mary Hawkins. Sister Marcella returned home to St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith, where she serves the community through her ministry of prayer and joy. Sister Marcella possesses a sharp mind and amazing memory. She enjoys reading and plays an occasional game of cards. Sister Marcella is faithful to her sisters in the community by her dedication to prayer and community events. She remembers everyone she has known with great affection. Her love for the people of Canyon and the Diocese of Amarillo lives on in her quick wit and experience there.

Last year Sister Marcella used social media technology for the first time at the tender age of 99 so that she and her baby sister could see and hear each other via Zoom. Before that visit, the two sisters had not seen each other for twenty years due to health and travel constraints. It was delightful to witness the two of them reconnecting by using a live cam format.

Sister Marcella is a blessing to St. Scholastica, and to all those she has had the opportunity to meet. Her affection for family and friends is always evident. When asked what wisdom she would like to share as someone who has seen so much change in the world, she answered, “Always try to follow God's will; there is much to learn in life; look for the lessons life brings to you.”

Lastly, Sister Marcella says this about herself, ‘I worked and prayed and have been happy; I thank the Lord, for my vocation.” Recently someone asked her what it is like to be 100 years of age? She replied, “I never thought I would live to be one hundred! I have tried to live a good life. Enjoy life as much as you can. Keep it simple. I think I have lived this long by eating right. I do enjoy things. I was never a person for snacks, but I never turn down cocktail shrimp or Italian food.” When asked about what she liked to do in her younger days, she said she loved sports. When her family had the farm in Paris, Arkansas, she rode horses. When her family later moved to California, she learned to ice skate and had fun playing tennis. Sister Marcella has a playful spirit and shares freely what she knows. Her community thanks her for her dedication to the monastic life and the love of her family and friends these many years. The Sisters pray that this birthday be more than she can ask or imagine.