Anita von Wellsheim

Anita von Wellsheim, RSCJ with her mother, Maria Lux von Wellsheim

Birth: Apr. 4, 1919
Profession: Feb. 11, 1945
Death: Jun. 30, 2008

Religious of the Sacred Heart, Anita Augusta von Wellsheim, died at Kenwood Convent of the Sacred Heart on Monday, June 30, 2008.

Born in Minneapolis, Minn., April 4, 1919, Anita was the fourth of five children of Baron Eugene Joseph von Plasche Wellsheim and Maria Agusta von Wellsheim (nee. Lux). Sr. von Wellsheim grew up in Utica and attended boarding school at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Rochester, N.Y., graduating from there in June, 1936. In September of that year she entered the Society of the Sacred Heart at Kenwood, making her final vows in the Kenwood Chapel on February 11, 1945. She received a B.A. in English from Manhattanville College and held an M.A. in English as well as M.A.I. in interdisciplinary studies from Manhattanville College.

Sr. von Wellsheim began her years of ministry in 1939 as a teacher at Newton Country Day School of the Sacred Heart in Newton, Mass. Her educational work as teacher and administrator in Sacred Heart Schools for the next 33 years took her to Torresdale, Pa., Greenwich, Conn., Buffalo, N.Y. and New York City. She was a gifted and talented educator who by 1972 experienced a "new and growing awareness for a world of suffering and injustice and an understanding of the mission to bring the good news of the Gospel to the poor". After a year of preparation for a transition to this new ministry, Sr. von Wellsheim became principal of Holy Rosary and Mt. Carmel Schools in East Harlem. In 1978, she began her service in the Albany Diocese as Director of Religious Education, District 1 and from 1982 until 1986 she was Director of Refugee Resettlement for the Diocese of Albany. Through this latter work, her concern for Central American refugees fleeing from the violence and persecution there grew and she joined a delegation to Nicaragua with Witness for Peace. The group was captured by the Contras in Costa Rica while sailing in a Flotilla for Peace on the San Juan River. She later joined Witness for Peace as a long term volunteer.

Upon her return to the U.S.A., Sr. Anita taught English as a second language to Central American refugees and later opened a regional office for Pax Christi, USA in Washington, DC. In 1992, her experience in a delegation to Haiti with Pax Christi USA drew her strongly to " the brave and suffering people of Haiti". She went on several missions there to promote peace and to monitor elections. Sister returned to Haiti to study the Hatian Creole language and to volunteer with Lafami Selavi and Witness for Peace. Her involvement with Fonkoze, Haiti's Alternative Bank for the Organized Poor, began in 1996. After working with Fonkoze in Port-au-Prince, she returned to Washington, DC to open a local office, Fonkoze Metro DC. When she moved to Kenwood convent in Albany in 1998, she started Fonkoze Albany which sponsored many events, both to raise funds for Fonkoze and to spread the knowledge of Haiti, its needs and its history, to the people of the Capital District.

Sr. von Wellsheim was a generous, courageous, persistent, totally dedicated woman whose great heart was given to the love and service of God and to the neediest of God's people. She is survived by her sisters, Maria Teresa Doyle of Clinton, Oneida County, and Elizabeth Dowling of Annapolis, Md. and several nieces and nephews. A funeral Mass will be celebrated in the Kenwood Convent Chapel on Tuesday, July 8 at 3:00 p.m. Interment in the Convent Cemetery immediately following the service.