The Life of Sister Maria Smith, D.C.
by Patti Underwood
On Holy Thursday, we in the Diocese of Shreveport and beyond lost a rare treasure, Sister Maria Smith, D.C. Sister Maria was Mother Superior of the Daughters of the Cross, serving in that position since 2003, last of the line extending from 1641. Wise and compassionate, firm yet gentle, and steely strong, Sister Maria was in her 66th year of religious life.
As the only child of Earl and Myrtle Rambin Smith of Gloster, Earline Smith grew up on their dairy farm, milking cows, riding horses and listening to St. Louis Cardinals games with her father. At age five she knew she wanted to be a nun after seeing a Sister of Charity of the Incarnate Word while visiting her mother at the hospital. The family prayed the rosary daily, and her Protestant father dropped his girls off at St. Ann’s for Sunday Mass, he would become her first convert. After Mass, they would catch a ride home with the priest, who usually stayed for dinner. In the tenth grade she entered St. Vincent’s Academy as a boarding student and upon graduating she entered the convent on September 8, 1953. From 1957 to 1997, she taught at Presentation Academy (Marksville), St. John Berchmans (Shreveport), Jesus the Good Shepherd (Monroe), St. Patrick’s (Lake Providence), and St. Catherine’s (Shreveport), serving as principal at St. Catherine’s for five years and at Jesus the Good Shepherd for 17 years.
While sitting with Sister Maria, you were bound to hear stories from her teaching career, such as the time she financed uniforms for the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams at Presentation by selling construction paper shamrocks downtown for a quarter and the time the Sisters picked up and sold enough pecans in Lake Providence to buy a car. At St. Catherine’s she was struck by lightning she was unharmed, but the plastic buttons on her coat were melted.
Sister Maria impacted generations at Jesus the Good Shepherd, her tenure spanning from 1960 to 1997. Former teacher Minette Gilbert, mentions “[she had a] jovial heart and a can-do spirit, loved everyone who came through her door, but could get her message across.” Her memory is revered there, attested by the framed photo in the library, the Sister Maria Smith, D. C. Scholarship and the handmade cards she has received from current students, born long after her departure.
In retirement, Sister Maria continued to minister to family and friends, residents and staff through her friendship, cards, letters, prayers and discreet aid with personal problems.
Everyone who came into her circle became one of her children. She had a knack for seeing and bringing out the best in everyone, and she brought many into the Church. A few days before her death, she commented, “I don’t know what they’re worried about. I’m not worried,” as she gazed out the window and strummed her Breviary.
If you are lucky enough to possess one of her notes, hold onto it. You have a relic!