Sister Cecelia (Sedella Clara) Noe was born on July 15, 1923 in Isaar, Wisconsin. She was a twin and the sister with whom she shared a birthday, Mrs. Rosella Van Boxtel, was the last survivor of the large Noe family. Sister Cecelia was given the name Matthew when she entered Mount Saint Mary's Abbey as a Lay Postulant on June 16, 1955. At that time there were a good number of sisters in both Choir and Lay Sister formation. There was a definite and supportive esprit de corp among those who were Lay Sisters.
She went along through the various stages of formation: becoming a Novice on January 20, 1956, making Temporary Profession on August 5, 1957, and Solemn Vows on August 15, 1960. After that she went through an extended time of darkness and difficulty. She lived the Cistercian ordinary, obscure, and laborious life as a Lay Sister throughout her life, as long as she was physically able. She was a very good worker and a faithful sister at the recited Office of the Lay Sisters. When the option of joining the Choir was open, she chose to remain as she was, although she did change into the white and black habit with the others.
Perhaps 25 years ago the possibility of changing to a feminine name was offered to those whose religious name was masculine. Sister Matthew changed hers to Sister Cecelia, after her mother. When she could no longer do heavy work, she was inspired to give more time to prayer. This prayer became a source of joy and wonder for her and for all of us. She would pray the rosary multiple times a day. Then she started saying the psalter as well as the rosary. She would do at least one complete psalter every day and often even more. Many of her sisters told her that she was following the example of the early desert monks and nuns and this brought her great consolation. She was deeply nourished by that combination of rosary and psalter and she became very peaceful and happy in her later years, the fruit of this continuous prayer. If a member of another sister’s family was ill or otherwise in need of prayers, Sister Cecelia would offer a psalter for the person.
At the time we were beginning the electronic cataloging of our monastic library, it was found that Sister Cecilia had read every book on Mary that we then had. Her devotion to Our Lady was deep and rich. During that last 18 or so years of her life, she read and reread the Diary of Sister Faustina which led to a devotion to the Divine Mercy. Her final prayers were simple ejaculations asking for divine help for herself and her community.
She had a lovely, warm smile for each sister who passed her and sometimes a little song or a poem from her distant past would bring a delighted smile from a passing sister, as she sat at a table, making boxes for the candy, or folding freshly washed clothes. Many sisters in the community who entered in the last 15 to 20 years tell how they experienced her support in daily life and in times of trial. “What will God be in Himself!” was her wondering response when shown something of beauty.
After a long illness, she died very peacefully on April 22, 2007 in our Abbey surrounded by her sisters.