Sister Stephanie Mertens, a retired educator who was a noted social justice advocate, died Jan. 7 at the Ruma Center in Ruma, Illinois. She was 87 and had been a vowed member of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ for 69 years.
For 10 years, Sister Stephanie was director of social concerns for the Diocese of Jefferson City, and she served in a similar role for her community for 18 years. In 1993, Sister Stephanie testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on African Affairs about the murders of five Adorer missionaries in Liberia.
In the late 1970s, she advocated and demonstrated for farmers suffering in the national farm crisis and served as the convener of the Farm Alliance of Rural Missouri. She was a leader in the cause of bringing parity to farmers, giving them fair prices for their products. It is not too late to effect a change, she said, “if we continue to release the power and the energy of the people. The only thing we must avoid is to say it can’t be done.”
Her interest in nature was in tune with her intense concern for the environment.
Born in St. Louis, Sister Stephanie earned a bachelor’s degree in theology from Saint Louis University in 1961 and a master’s degree in religion/religious education from The Catholic University in Washington, D.C.
She served as religious education coordinator for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Also in Missouri, she taught at Visitation School in Vienna and St. Joseph School in Zell. In Illinois, she taught at St. Albert the Great in Fairview Heights, St. Elizabeth in East St. Louis and St. Matthew in Alton. She taught a year in Fort Dodge, Iowa, and taught parish religious education in Pinckneyville and Tamaroa, Illinois.
Survivors include her brothers Charles Mertens and Robert Mertens; and her sisters Carol Turbek and Bonnie Jung. A private vigil service was to be held at the Ruma Center on Jan. 12, followed by burial in the Ruma Convent cemetery. A memorial Mass for Sister Stephanie will be celebrated at a later time.