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When a young woman enters the convent doors with the persistent desire to give her life over to God, she does so with faith and trust that it is a mutual love between herself and her God. At an early age, Sr. Therese Martin began to pursue her conviction that she was to be a Sister. This journey of living as a Franciscan Sister of the Poor for seventy-three and a half years ended with her death on October 21, 2015. Sr. Therese Martin’s desire to be with God for all eternity was almost palpable as she gave her physical life into the hands of her Creator.

Martin Hessler and Agnes Mauntel joined together to build a family steeped in the Catholic faith of their heritage. Making their home in Mount Healthy, an outpost of Cincinnati, Ohio, they welcomed four daughters into their family. The youngest, Martha Frances, was born at home on September 9, 1925. The family was active in Assumption Parish where the children attended elementary school. Two pivotal events for Martha occurred during this time. The first was the question she posed to God on her First Communion Day: “Will I become a Sister?” The second event occurred five to six years later when her teacher organized a hike from the school to St. Clare Convent in Hartwell where she met several Sisters and the Aspirants. When she received a letter inviting her to consider attending high school as an aspirant, Martha Frances asked her parents to allow her to attend “the boarding” school. Money was tight for the family of six, but Martha’s paternal grandmother offered to pay her tuition.
Martha thrived in this academic environment, growing more and more attracted to religious life. After her sixteenth birthday she applied for admission to the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor and was accepted as a postulant on January 21, 1942. When Martha received the habit of the Congregation, her name was changed to Sr. Therese Martin, inspired by St. Thérèse the Little Flower and also by her relationship with her father. Upon completion of her novitiate, Sister made her first profession on September 8, 1944, one day before her nineteenth birthday. As a temporary professed, she completed her senior year of high school and then entered the School of Nursing at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Dayton, Ohio, graduating two and a half years later in a shortened program that accommodated members of the nursing cadet program.
After successfully passing the nursing exam, Sister returned to St. Clare Convent to prepare for her Perpetual Profession, and she was assigned to help provide dietary services in the infirmary. Upon profession of vows on September 8, 1949, Sr. Therese Martin was missioned to St. Francis Hospital to care for an older Sister and then was assigned to be supervisor of the women’s unit.
During that time she met a practical nurse who felt a calling to religious life. The practical nurse, later known as Sr. Marie Timothy Smith, became a lifelong friend. With very little experience, Sr. Therese Martin was assigned as a night nursing supervisor.

For twenty years Sr. Therese Martin practiced nursing, primarily in supervisory positions in the obstetrics departments of hospitals located in Batesville, Indiana, Quincy Illinois, and Kansas City, Kansas. Sister often spoke fondly of her experiences with new mothers. Even in her elder years, Sr. Therese Martin continued in that ministry by praying for women who desired to become pregnant and for successful births.
In many respects Sr. Therese Martin was a lifelong student, earning a B.S. in nursing education from the University of Dayton, a M.S. in nursing administration from St. John’s University in Jamaica, New York, and a M.A. in applied theology from the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley, California. The latter experience led Sister to extend the concept of ministry to include ecumenism at Pinecroft House of Peace in Cincinnati where she served for ten years.
Sr. Therese Martin served on the Congregational Leadership Team, as first US Regional Minister, site coordinator for the renovation of St. Clare Convent, and also the Local Minister.
Sr. Therese Martin spoke frequently about the spirituality she learned under the tutorage of her parents, especially her father, and she traced her love of nature to his example. Mr. Hessler created a garden to provide fresh fruits and vegetables for the family table and tended a small vineyard that provided grapes to enjoy off the vine with enough left over for making homemade wine. He grafted a variety of apple specimens to the apple tree that allowed it to produce many types of apples on a single tree. Flowers in the family garden reflected the beauty of God’s creation. Mr. Hessler loved birds and recognized their calls. Sr. Therese Martin’s interest in birds proved evident by a book on ornithology that remained one of her treasured possessions.

Sr. Therese Martin, as we say goodbye to you, we thank you for your life among us, for the many gifts you shared with us, for your ongoing fearlessness in accepting new life challenges, and for your faithfulness as a Franciscan Sister of the Poor. Your life of ninety years was focused on discovering and living out a life dedicated to God. In the last moments of your life, you heard the words of Jesus, “Come, blessed of my Father,” and you went in peace.

Sr. Arleen Bourquin, SFP
October 25, 2015

The following are some testimonials from our Sisters who remember Sister Therese Martin with great affection:

“Sr. Therese Martin was always a welcoming person, willing and always ready to help me. When I had to have eye surgery, Sr. Therese Martin was always with me. I had only my right eye to see and that was the one that needed surgery. She came every morning and evening to pray Holy Office with me, which I greatly appreciated, until I was able to use my eye. Always the nurse, Sister was ready to help. Many times while she was still able to drive, Sister would drive me to wherever we needed to do our shopping. I will always remember her kindness and willingness to assist me. She was ‘big sister’ to me and a very prayerful person, quiet and peaceful.”
—Sr. Clarita Frericks

“I remember her from her reflections on the Franciscan theology and writings and teachings of Duns Scotus. She would say that all creation of the world comes from the love of God so the Word made flesh will have a place to rest his head (from the Gospel of John). Her reflections always came from the aspects of love.”
—Sr. Adelaide Link

“My fondest memory of Sr. Therese Martin is from the days before she passed into the loving arms of God. These past weeks, she would sit near me in the chapel. We would make sure Sister was awake for Communion. As Sr. Yvonne approached her, I would touch Therese’s arm and say, ‘Jesus is here.’ Therese would break out in a big smile and say, ‘Oh, thank you!’ and reach out her hand for Communion. I have been so impressed that at the end of her life, when all else fell away, she was still aware of the God who was the center of her life, love, and strength for all these years.”
—Sr. Jo-Ann Jackowski

“In 1952 I met Sr. Therese Martin for the first time, when I went to work in the OB department at our hospital in Batesville, Indiana. Shortly thereafter Sister invited me to join her on a Franciscan journey as a Franciscan Sister of the Poor. You were always there—in the good times and especially when there were challenges. I say a special ‘thank you’ for your loving compassionate support throughout the 63 years that we shared. Know that I will always remember our ‘prayer secrets.’”
—Sr. Mary Louise Sahm

“When I lived with Therese Martin at 23 Middagh St. in New York City, we were both on the Council. I often went with her when we needed to travel by subway and I showed her the way. This was all new for her and quite a challenge. After she was more adjusted, she told me of an experience that delighted her. She had traveled alone on the subway and some out-of-towners asked her for directions. She was very proud and elated that she could give them directions!”
—Sr. Bernadette Sullivan

“What came to me about Sr. Therese Martin was seeing her years ago when she still served in one of our hospitals. Sister told me how much she loved carrying a newborn baby into the waiting room to show its father. Her face was lit up with great joy.”
—Sr. Mary Virginia Schreiner

“Sr. Therese Martin handled our wedding at St. Clare Chapel and we are forever grateful to her blessing us with her kindness and attention to detail.”
—Associates Molly Talbot and Jim Traynor

“Sr. Therese Martin had an infectious laugh, and dancing, smiling eyes, and an aura of 'Welcome.' I was always pleased to be in her presence because she gave off positive, life-giving energy.”
—Sr. Bonnie Steinlage

“Sr. Therese Martin was a woman of integrity and simple dignity. She was a kind, gentle, and thoughtful person. Often she expressed her deep appreciation for all of the opportunities that were afforded her—spiritual, medical, and educational—either personally or those of community. In a true Franciscan spirit, Therese credited God with all of the ‘successes’ she enjoyed in this life. She was a true friend in time of need.”
—Sr. Karen Hartman

“My memories of Sr. Therese Martin go back to the time when I came to the novitiate. Her patroness was the Little Flower, and I always remember Sister’s devotion to the Little Flower and her joy that her name ‘Martin’ was not only her father’s name but also the surname of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. And I remember her commitment to the ‘Little Way’ of St. Thérèse, the way, it seems to me, that was a part of all that Sr. Therese Martin did.”
—Sr. Marie Clement


“I have many wonderful memories of Sr. Therese Martin. The one that particularly stands out in my heart is her deep appreciation of friendships in her life. She lovingly and carefully fostered those friendships she had made over the years. Jesus was her best friend and then she loved her friends in and with Him.”
—Sr. Madonna Hoying

“Sr. Therese Martin always had a smile—even when I could tell she wasn’t feeling very well. When I first came to St. Clare as Vocation Facilitator, she would tell me there would be some challenges but everything would be rewarding. She continually encouraged me and welcomed all the new ways of approaching vocations. When my office was moved to the convent’s parlor, Sr. Clarita said I needed a plant, so she gave me a cut from a vine from one of Sr. Therese Martin’s plants. As time progressed, Sr. Therese Martin became my sponsor when I became an Associate, and our friendship flourished. She told me about her life and that her daddy would always tell her she would be their ‘little sister.’ She talked about her life in Mt. Healthy, close to where my own father’s sister had lived. She couldn’t remember if she knew the family, but when I presented her with a book about Mt. Healthy (from Images of America) she was so excited to see the Hessler family name in it and all the stores and family names she once knew. We talked about her walks to St. Clare Aspirancy from Mt. Healthy and how it was affiliated with Our Lady of Angels High School where I had gone. We shared so many stories. One day she told me that the plant in my office came from the flower arrangement that was on her daddy’s casket. He died in 1989. My mom died in 1989. My office was moved next to an area with no windows, so I took the vine home. It did quite well for a long time. Then, almost a year ago, it began to show signs of wilting. I even mentioned this to several coworkers, mainly to get advice about plant care. I would put aspirin in the water and even placed the plant in different rooms in the house to get different sun rays. A week or so before her passing, the vine had literally died. I sensed that Sister’s ‘spirit’ was with her daddy—and my mom. Therese Martin, I love you and will treasure you in my heart always.”
—Associate Ruthy Trusler

“Sr. Therese Martin was a true follower of Francis and will always be remembered.
F = faithful
R = reflective
A = authentic
N = neat
C = compassionate
I = intelligent
S = smiling ”
—Associate Laura Weinberger

 Published: January, 22, 2016