Sister Irene Kalapinski, who was just shy of her 80th jubilee of religious profession as a School Sister of Notre Dame, died May 5 at Anna House, The Sarah Community in Bridgeton, at age 100.
Born in Detroit in 1919, her early childhood was touched by the Depression and the Kalapinski family moved several times in an effort to find the means to support the family, finally settling in St. Louis. Irene attended eight schools before finishing her elementary education. After graduating from St. Vincent de Paul Grade School in St. Louis, she asked her parents for permission to enter the convent. They needed her to help the family financially, so instead she worked babysitting and later at Emerson Electric Company on the assembly line. After three years, her father had secured a good job and she entered the candidature in 1937.
She was assigned to assist in the Ecclesiastical Department and was received into the novitiate in, 1939 and given the name Mary Maxima. She professed first vows in 1940 and final vows in 1946. She later returned to her baptismal name. Sister Irene completed high school when she was in her 20s. She entered Notre Dame College and received a bachelor’s degree in art in 1963.
Sister Irene taught elementary children for 39 years. In Missouri, she taught at St. Michael in Shrewsbury; St. Joseph in Farmington; St. Martin of Tours, St. Gabriel and St. Liborius in St. Louis; Sacred Heart in Rich Fountain; and St. Francis Borgia in Washington. She also taught in Illinois, Louisiana and Texas.
She did community service at St. Elizabeth Day Nursery in St. Louis and the Academy of Notre Dame in Belleville, Illinois. She was an occupational therapy aide at Villa Gesu in St. Louis for seven years and served as the postmistress at Sancta Maria in Ripa for 10 years.
Though she had an increasing loss of eyesight, Sister Irene made craft items which were sold in the gift shop at Ripa. She also enjoyed gardening and was involved in crocheting mats out of plastic bags for people who are homeless. She moved to The Sarah Community in 2014.
A prayer service was held at Sancta Maria in Ripa cemetery where she was buried May 11. A memorial Mass will be celebrated later. Survivors include her sister, Maxine Bratton.