"The artist and the fundamentalist are both individuals who are struggling with what do to with freedom. Art moves us forward to a new future, engaging new ideas, new realities, new experiences. To the artist, humanity is valuable and full of possibilities for redemption. The fundamentalist moves us backward, to a better, more pure day, or time, or idea".
Theresa Hesch was a lovely young woman. She was tall and strong and well skilled in traditional homemaker arts like cooking, cleaning, sewing, gardening and child-rearing, plus she could probably swing an ax and built a house or barn, too. She could have married a local farmer...or a local businessman...?
So, why did she choose the convent?
What I knew of Sr. Laura was that she was wiley and not particularly HOLY, if you know what I mean. Yes, she always did the 'vocations' pitch to us, but it seemed like more rote than recommendation.
She was a vegetarian, something I'd never heard of. When we asked her why, she said she'd seen too many animals butchered when she was a kid, that was all.
After her dad died in 1900, we think that each kid got a legacy of sorts when they left home. Some got one of Pauls' farms, two got a trip to Europe, and Theresa got a dowery to the convent. I was told by a current Benedictine that a dowery got you more education as a postulant, and better assignments as a nun.
Looking at her later career as a sister, we found that she entered the convent in 1902, and made her final vows in 1910, when she was 28. The 1910 census has her teaching in St Augusta, Minnesota, and in 1926, when her brothers died, she was teaching in Barnesville, Minnesota. I assume she had other posts, as well.
From the Minnesota Reflections website:
"In 1930" (when she was 48), "Bishop Peter Bartholme of the Diocese of St. Cloud asked Sister Laura Hesch, OSB, to set up a mission to serve the Ojibwe on the Mille Lacs Reservation".
"In 1944" (she was 62), "a small center for Sister Laura Hesch's mission was built. She called it Little Flower Inn".
"In 1949" (at 67) "Sister Laura Hesch oversaw the clearing of the ground in preparation for the construction of the Little Flower Mission Church, which was built the following year under the supervison of the Crosier Fathers of Onamia".
Was the mission a 'cherry' assignment? It gave her a place in history, and it certainly wasn't another parish grade school, but it was an awful lot of work, just as she was entering old age. But, you know, it also gave her amazing FREEDOM...something most women her age still didn't have.
My family visited her at the mission probably once a year, and she had to "finagle' rides if she needed to be in St Joe or St Cloud for something, so we saw her then, too.
I think I was 12 when she asked dad if any of his kids were "artistic", and he said I was. Someone had given her some pastels to try, and she loved them. Before I knew it, she was showing me how, and teaching me stuff like blending and perspective, what a vanishing point was, and what kind of paper was best and why. She gave me an assortment of colors and some paper, and an assignment to go try it. I spent the next 2-3 years making this sort of thing:
I did that one on the computer, but it has the look.
The cool thing was that she taught me something fun, just cuz it was neat, no other reason. I remember the hot iron smell of her clothes and how gentle she was, holding my hand holding the chalk, and her enthusiasm. No one had ever taught me something that way--just for the pleasure of teaching and learning. It's why I revere her today, and why I've done so many posts about her. I need to figure her out, if I can...but I think, what Theresa most likely wanted....and what took her forever to get.....was a sense of self-determination and freedom.
The closest she came to it, I think, was there at Mille Lacs Lake, in the woods among the Ojibwe. I always had the feeling that they didn't respect or understand each other, but the situation was a challenge to both. Close enough.