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February 17, 2009

Monastery's oldest sister dies at 99

Sister Mary Wilfrid Huettel, O.S.B., died Monday afternoon at Sacred Heart Monastery. She was the monastery's oldest sister, just five months shy of her 100th birthday.

Sister Janet Marie Flemming, the monastery's prioress, and most of the sisters gathered quickly at her bedside to pray and sing. Though confined to a wheelchair the last few weeks of her life, Huettel continued her devotion to prayer, still attending Mass and Vespers almost every day, up to two days before her death.

Solemn Vespers of the Dead led by the prioress was sung Tuesday in Sacred Heart Monastery Chapel.

Mass of the Resurrection will be celebrated on Wednesday, Feb. 18, at 1:30 p.m., by Rev. Marcus Voss, O.S.B., Monk of St. Bernard Abbey, who will also give the homily. Sister Treva Heinberg, O.S.B., former prioress, will give a reflection at the end of Mass. Burial will be in Sacred Heart Monastery Cemetery, with Sister Janet Marie assisting in the prayers of farewell.

Born on July 19, 1909, to George and Mary Magdalene (Aust) Huettel, immigrants from Breslau, Germany, and now deceased, she was named for her mother, but called Lillie. She is still affectionately called "Aunt Lillie"ù by some of her nephews and nieces and their children. Her father died in the flu epidemic of 1918 and her mother of cancer in 1921. Their pastor, wanting to keep the three children together, brought them to Cullman shortly after the mother's death, placing the boys, Wilfrid and Fred, at St. Bernard Abbey School and Lillie at Sacred Heart Academy.

When she arrived at Sacred Heart in March of 1921, the Community was only 19 years old, and Mother Annunciata Janeway, O.S.B., had just been elected the second prioress the previous August, 1920. Huettel knew all 16 of the pioneers who established Sacred Heart Monastery in April 1902, and she told great stories about many of them.

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