Photos by courtesy of Stocelin family in Germany
Sister M. Sales Stöcklein CPS lived and worked from 1964 to 1987 in the Minor Seminary which the Missionaries of Mariannhill ran in the city of Palencia (Spain). She died on the 25th of November 2014 in Holland, at the age of 105 years.
I met Sister Sales in September 1969 when, at the age of ten, I arrived at Mariannhill Seminary in Palencia. Among those who lived there: superiors, formators, teachers, sisters, employees, students, from the first moment I was struck by Sister Sales who frequently walked the floors of the halls and passages of the building with a large mop, keeping them bright and shining. Three or four times a year the seminary slaughtered several pigs in the farm and Sister Sales efficiently directed the slaughtering, the cutting and the subsequent preparation of sausages. Together with her remarkable diligence, Sister Sales was noticed by her serious religiosity. I was always impressed to see her kneeling in prayer. Each January 24th, her name feast, the students gave her a bouquet of flowers as a present, which she immediately put at the feet of Our Lady in the Chapel. Later on, when I was working as a missionary in Zimbabwe, where she was before coming to Spain, I could realize that Sister Sales was remembered there as I had known her since childhood in Palencia: as a tireless worker and faithful religious sister.
During my theological training in Salamanca, whenever I moved to Palencia, I took part in the daily Mass in the chapel of the Sisters. There for the first time I saw Sister Sales wearing glasses, reading a book before starting the celebration. Then I began to understand that Sister Sales was an educated person and she was faithfully looking after her spiritual life. I remember her kindness on the occasion of my priestly ordination in 1982. Before leaving for Zimbabwe in 1983, I did a full course in our Seminary in Palencia in spiritual direction for seminarians. During that year I came to know Sister Sales even more and my admiration for her grew continuously as I saw in her a role model for religious life. To me she was a well-integrated person. By then I already knew what Abbot Francis Pfanner said about his religious and missionary sisters. He wanted them strong, hardworking, compassionate, so that they could effectively evangelize African women. And every time I saw Sister Sales I could not help but be convinced that she embodied perfectly the ideal religious and missionary sister, in the perspective of Abbot Francis. During that course I was her confessor. I can only share that her English diction was clear, distinct and perfect, and I always came out comforted and energized after hearing her confession.
When we closed our Seminary in Palencia and Sister Sales went to the Motherhouse of the CPS in Holland, we kept in touch by letter. Her handwriting was perfect, though written by a shaky hand. One would expect the contrary. In some of her letters to me it’s awesome to notice in them both the tremor and the perfect calligraphy. I remember what she, with a certain sense of humor, once wrote to me: Fr Lino, here there are many Sisters and quite elderly. Quite often we have to go to the cemetery to bury one. When we return from the funeral to the Convent we always wonder who will be the next to go. Believe me, I can tell you that our guesses are never right!
Sister Sales has always been a clear reference for my religious and missionary life. Her noble bearing, her moderate speech, her balanced temperament, her fidelity to work and prayer always drew my attention. I admired her for all these qualities and wanted so much to be like her. Later, I slowly tried to internalize some of these qualities and make them my own. She has always been a source of inspiration for me and a good model of a dedicated and committed religious person.
May she rest in the peace of Lord; may her many good works accompany her; may the Lord reward all the good she did throughout her long missionary life, from Germany to Holland, spending most of her centennial existence in Zimbabwe and Spain.
Fr Lino Herrero Prieto