Sister Mary Benedicta

The Baltimore Sun

Sister Mary Benedicta Viebeck, a nun who left Germany in 1938 when the Nazi government took over her school and became a Baltimore teacher and official of her order, died of a heart attack Feb. 28 at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. She was 94.

Born Maria Viebeck in Teisbach in Lower Bavaria, Germany, she entered the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Munich in 1926. Trained as an educator, she became an elementary school teacher under the Bavarian State Authority while a member of her religious order.

By 1936, Adolf Hitler's government was closing many of the state-sponsored schools where Roman Catholic sisters taught. She was among 55 religious teachers and day care workers who were affected by the governmental order.

Her mother superior offered Sister Benedicta the chance to leave Germany and go to the United States, where her order had established schools and convents in the 19th century.

In an interview with other members of her order, Sister Benedicta said she consulted with her birth mother, who advised her daughter to leave Germany. Sister Benedicta was among 14 sisters who left for New York in 1938.

"She was an international woman who was ahead of her times," said Sister Bernice Feilinger, a member of the School Sisters. "She was a strong woman who at the same time was also contemplative. She was also very grateful and spoke her thanks to all those who may have helped her at any time."

Sister Benedicta learned English and taught in Newark, N.J., and Brooklyn, N.Y., before becoming the administrator of St. Vincent's Orphanage in the Tacony section of Philadelphia. The home was founded in 1855 as an orphanage for German immigrant children but later served all children.

She moved to Baltimore in 1962 and taught history, government and German at the Institute of Notre Dame on Aisquith Street and then spent several years in Rome as an administrator of her order.

In 1970 Sister Benedicta resumed teaching in Baltimore. Later, she joined the faculty of Notre Dame Preparatory School in Towson.

Sister Benedicta was elected to the Baltimore Provincial Council of her order in 1975. She ended her classroom career in 1981, again at the Institute of Notre Dame, then became a translator for a heritage project of her order's schools and orphanages. At her death, she was translating the Chronicle of St. Joseph's Orphanage in Pittsburgh from German into English.

Sister Benedicta was a participant in the "Nun study," a National Institute on Aging research project. She donated her body to medical science.

Plans for a graveside service are incomplete. A memorial Mass was held Saturday.

Survivors include two nieces.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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