Estelle Hackett, OP
1888 - 1948
1888 - 1948
Sister Mary Estelle (May Hackett) was born on March 20, 1888 in a little farm-house six miles west of Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. Her parents, John and Mary Hackett, were natives of Canada and came to Michigan immediately after their marriage. She was baptized in Sacred Heart Church, Mt. Pleasant, and was instructed for her First Holy Communion and Confirmation by Reverend T. J. O'Connor. She was confirmed by the Host Reverend Henry Joseph Richter on May 30, 1900.
On September 8, 1910, she entered the Dominican novitiate which was then in Traverse City, Mother M. Benedicta being the Mistress of Novices. She was clothed in the habit of St.Dominic on April 19, 1911, made her first profession on August 5, 1913, and her perpetual profession July 29, 1919.
Sister Estelle received her early education in a rural school near Mt. Pleasant and prepared for teaching by taking a course at the Central State Normal (Central Michigan University). When she entered the community she had had a year or two of experience as a teacher in the rural schools.
In 1917, Sister spent a year at the Catholic University in Washington with Mother M. Benedicta and received a B.A. degree there in June 1918. After her return from Washington she taught at Catholic Central High School, Grand Rapids, for two years and was then appointed principal of Sacred Heart Academy, then located on Ransom Avenue. At this time the new home of Sacred Heart Academy (Marywood) was in process of construction. She was the first principal of the new academy, upon its opening in the fall of 1922.
Sister Estelle's was a powerful personality. She was endowed by nature with qualities that made her a leader in whatever sphere she moved.
In 1925 she was appointed by Mother Benedicta to head a group of Sisters in the preparation of "Curricula Studies" which was published the following year. When this volume was completed, she gave a similar service to her community and to education in the preparation of the Marywood Readers. On this project she worked with Sister Jane Marie. The Readers were first published in 1929.
When the Liturgical Movement was launched in this country by the Benedictine Fathers of Collegeville, Minnesota in 1926, Sister Estelle became immediately enthusiastic. As the movement progressed and she became more and more familiar with it, dreams of a course in religion that would give the “truths” of faith meaning to children, took shape and developed in the mind of Sister Estelle. Our Lord had taught in parables, had brought the divine truths down to the intelligence of those who heard Him. Why could not a course in religion be evolved, using Bible History, the Lives of the Saints, the Liturgy, which would lead the child by encouragement in the practice of virtue to a fuller knowledge and practice of faith?
Providence gave the longed for opportunity in 1929, when a meeting was arranged with Dom Virgil Michel at St. John's Abbey in Collegeville. Plans for collaboration of the Benedictine Fathers with the Dominican Sisters on a course of study of religion in the grades took shape and developed into the series “With Mother Church” and later, "The Christ Life Series." At the outset Sister Estelle and Sister Jane Marie were companions in this work, which was later brought to conclusion by Sister Jane Marie. During the time that she was working on the Marywood Readers she was engaged as prefect at Marywood.
In 1929 she was appointed supervisor of the grade school of the congregation, a position that she held until 1942.
Sister Estelle's health began to decline in the early 1930's when she under-went surgery for goitre. From that time on her health was impaired and she suffered much at times from nerve fatigue and exhaustion.
In August 1936 she was elected fourth member of the General Council, which she held during the first six-year term of Mother M. Euphrasia's administration. She was at the same time Directress General of Schools. During this time she organized the Community Circulating Library.
In the fall of 1944, Father R. E. Fitzpatrick applied for Sisters to conduct a religious instruction school in his parish in Carrollton Michigan for the benefit of Catholic children attending the public school. This work was entrusted to Sister Estelle and in it she seemed to find the fulfillment of her heart's desire. For two years she put all her energies into "Mary's School," instructing these children, teaching them the beauties of the faith of their fathers, preparing them for the loving reception of the sacraments, and leading them in the beginnings of the way of virtue.
Then, in 1946, the health that had been so long waning gave out completely. A staphylococcus infection, which without doubt had been making head way in Sister's system for years, settled in her knees. She was unable to walk and suffered acute pain. From December 2, 1946 until June 23, 1947 she was a patient in St. Mary's Hospital, Saginaw. Even during this time she did not cease to work for Mary's School. From her bed of pain she gave help to the young sister, Sister M. Paula Murphy, who had been her assistant and who now took over the work.
On June 23, 1947 Sister was brought to Marywood, and remained in the infirmary for eight months. She wanted to recover and to that end she devoted the little physical strength that remained in her, forcing herself to walk without the aid of a crutch or cane. Every morning found her in her place for Holy Mass and she was in the chapel for Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in the afternoon regardless of pain or physical weakness.
In February 1948 she returned to Saginaw for a check-up with Dr. Jenichen and Dr. Ernst. The decision was that surgery on the knees might relieve irritation. An operation was performed on one knee. It was very successful and Sister was much encouraged. In a letter to Mother Euphrasia, she wrote: "I have a bit of good news which pleased me greatly. I have gained four and a half pounds during the past week… Of course this next operation will take its toll for a few days but after that I hope to gain steadily."
But alas for Sister's brave hopes. Just after noon on Saturday Mother Euphrasia's telephone rang and the message was that Sister Estelle was being anointed--and an hour later a second one, that she was gone. The doctor stated her death was due to a respiratory failure brought on perhaps by a blood clot. Sister Estelle's body was brought to St. Mary's Convent, Saginaw and the next day it was brought to Marywood. Knowing Sister's outstanding devotion to the Sacred Liturgy, it was fitting that she was buried on Wednesday of Holy Week.
Tribute prepared by the Grand Rapids Dominicans, Sister Rose Marie Martin, Archives Manager.