The funeral Mass for Sister Theresa Duerfahrd (formerly Sister M. Clementcele) was celebrated Nov. 9 at Theresa Center Chapel at Ripa in St. Louis. Sister Theresa died Nov. 4 at SSM Health DePaul Hospital in Bridgeton. She was 91 and a professed member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame for 71 years.
Born in St. Louis on Nov. 5, 1926, she was the fifth child of Cecilia (Boehm) and Clement Duerfahrd. She was baptized two days later on Nov. 7 at Sts. Peter and Paul Church and named Theresa Catherine. She had three sisters and two brothers.
She attended Sts. Peter and Paul School, staffed by the School Sisters of Notre Dame. On her First Communion Day, she felt the desire to become a sister. In the seventh grade her teacher, Sister Ancilla Rothenbucher, asked her if she would like to become a sister. This affirmed her in her desire. She attended the two-year high school at St. Francis de Sales and completed her high school education at St. Alphonsus (Rock) High School.
During her high school years, Theresa would take supper to her father who was a pharmacist and owned a drug store. On the street car, she would study her lessons for the next day. While her father ate his meal, she managed the store. On nights when Theresa did not have extra homework, she would remain and wait on the customers and clean up at closing time.
In her senior year, Sister Justin Peer asked her about becoming a religious sister. Sister Theresa made several novenas to Our Lady of Perpetual Help and chose to enter the candidature. She entered at Sancta Maria in Ripa on Aug. 30, 1944. During her second year of candidature, she was missioned to St. Mary’s in New Orleans, where she taught 66 second grade boys. Returning to Ripa, she was received into the novitiate on July 29, 1946, and given the name Sister M. Clementcele, a combination of her parents’ names. She professed first vows on July 30, 1947, and final vows on July 30, 1953.
Sister Theresa earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1957 from the former Notre Dame College in St. Louis. Following her profession, she taught elementary children for 38 years at St. Mary in Alton, Ill.; St. Mary in Belleville, Ill.; St. Raphael in St. Louis; St. Mary in Fort Madison, Iowa; St. Philip in East St. Louis, Ill.; Immaculate Heart of Mary in St. Louis; St. Clare in St. Clair; St. Dominic in Breese, Ill.; and St. Louis in Nokomis, Ill.
Sister Theresa ministered in the liturgical fabric arts department at Ripa for six years. She was a tutor at the Notre Dame Tutorial Center for 14 years and a driver at Ripa for 20 years. She was also a faithful volunteer in the resource development department, helping with the various mailings. As her hearing and eyesight declined, she was missioned to Veronica House in 2016.
A quiet, gentle and sensitive woman, Sister Theresa loved teaching, especially preparing children for the reception of the sacraments. She hoped to inculcate in them a love and reverence that would continue the rest of their lives. She prepared the older girls to be sacristans and the older boys to be servers, helping them to learn the Latin prayers and rituals. She was a coordinator for Sunday CCD classes and coached children for the Speech League. Her generous spirit continued at Veronica House where she flattened the plastic bags to be cut into strips for making mats for the homeless.
She is survived by a sister, Cecilia Duerfahrd of Ellisville. Burial was in the Sancta Maria in Ripa Cemetery.