Mother Mary Theresa Repking was born in Bishop Creek, Illinois, on July 23, 1857, the daughter of Anton and Elizabeth Sandschafer Repking.
Sister Mary Theresa received the habit at St. Agatha’s church in St. Louis, Missouri, on September 8, 1874.
She made first vows on August 28, 1876, and final vows on August 1, 1891.
One of the first United States citizens to join the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, she traveled with U.S. Foundress Clementine Zerr and others to make a permanent move from Piopolis to Ruma, Illinois. The changing of their central house occurred on a hot July day in 1876.
Fondly known as Mother Mary, Mary Theresa was part of a community that had gradually become more stable even as it continued its westward expansion. She was a stabilizing force and would be appointed vicaress by Rome upon Clementine’s death.
Mother Mary’s red sash figuratively and gently wove together the O’Fallon Sisters, the community in Piopolis, the group in Ruma, and the then far-flung states of Illinois, Kansas and New Mexico.
A trained musician and organist, Mother Mary taught in several schools in Illinois before she was appointed director of novices in 1890.
In 1900, she functioned as superior of the newly forming St. Clement’s Hospital in Red Bud, Illinois, where she planted and tended a garden in the early morning hours.
By 1904, she had relocated to the Adorers-founded St. Teresa Academy in East St. Louis, for a two-year stint until she became vicaress of the community at the death of Clementine Zerr in 1906.
She and Clementine had visited Rome in 1896; Mother Mary and Sister Anna Stoer returned to Rome in 1906 to participate in the election of Sister Frances Emmanuelli, the new general superior.
Mother Mary stabilized Clementine’s sometimes daring and reckless zeal in opening many schools in a steadily westward movement. Mother Mary was cautious about accepting new schools and spending money.
Staff New Hospital
Because of lack of funds and nurses, Mother Mary was hesitant about accepting and staffing the new St. Vincent’s Hospital in Taylorville, Illinois. But she worked with Paulina Schneeberger to come to a decision about the Ruma Sisters taking over the ministry from the newly arrived Sisters from Croatia.
When it become evident that it would be more feasible for the Croatian Sisters to teach in the Alton schools, the Ruma vicariate assumed full responsibility for the hospital.
More prone to preserving the traditions of Ruma’s pioneer days than in venturing into new endeavors, more a counselor and calming mother figure than an administrator, Mother Mary nevertheless adjusted the internal and financial affairs of the vicariate so that projects became more manageable.
She held a cherished teaching certificate as early as 1885 and encouraged Sisters to study for a high school diploma and certificate, a goal her successors would continue to implement.
When Mother Veronica Baumgart was appointed vicaress in 1922, Mother Mary became superior of St. Teresa Academy and within a year had moved to Wichita to take charge of St. John’s Academy, which the Adorers had founded.
As the Wichita diocese and its school system expanded, Mother Mary urged the Sisters to meet the needs with more education of their own.
End of Life
The Adorers congregation was divided into provinces in 1929 by order of the Vatican. Carlsbad, New Mexico, became part of the Wichita Province. Mother Mary went to Carlsbad to rest, and she ultimately died there in 1935.
Despite some objections from the Ruma province, Mother Mary was buried in the Sisters’ cemetery in Wichita, Kansas. Some of the young Sisters drew small red threads from the tassels of her sash as mementos of her kind, motherly spirit.