MARCH 2005: SISTER M. THADDINE CHOPP (entered eternal life on January 5, 2009)
There is a Chinese Proverb that states “Give a person a fish and he or she will eat for a day. Teach a person to fish and he or she will eat for the rest of his life.” This Proverb appropriately describes the life of Sister M. Thaddine Chopp, OSF who has devoted her life to God and the education of nurses. And it also holds true for the hundreds of students who benefited from her instruction and then began a career in caring for the sick and dying.
Sister Thaddine served 19 years as a nursing instructor in psychology and other courses at St. John’s School of Nursing. For two of those years, she taught at the University of Illinois – Chicago. “I was usually in the clinical area, working with the elderly, and it was through these years that the spark of my young students brought me insights about youth and aging,” she said. “It was fun, and my writing ability had so much fuel as I learned about compassion, suffering, sharing, and the love of God,” she added. Her writing ability would lead to something very exciting for Sister Thaddine as one day she would be also known as a published author.
Students share praise and appreciation
Three of her students welcomed the opportunity to pay tribute to their former teacher. “Sister Thaddine was my instructor in fundamental nursing skills early in my years at St. John’s Hospital School of Nursing,” said Peter Garvey, St. Francis Convent Administrator. “She presented a sweet Beatrix Potter demeanor, which always put the students at ease. Her gentle, joyful ways I have come to know more deeply as an abiding Franciscan presence, which is the root of charity,” he added. Peter recalled a specific moment as a student and how Sister Thaddine related to his anxiousness: “I have a clear memory of standing outside a patient’s room at St. John’s North with some anxiety about how I would speak with the patient, who had a grave diagnosis. Sister Thaddine said to me ‘Much is expected of those to whom God places in these positions of responsibility, but He will guide you, Peter.’ ”
Other students shared their thoughts. “I first met Sister Thaddine in 1966 during my junior year at St. John’s School of Nursing and she was the nursing instructor for psychiatry,” Rita Nortrup said. “She was always very patient and soft spoken,” Rita explained. Years later, Rita is now a caregiver to Sister Thaddine in Loretto Home at the Motherhouse. “Now when I take care of her on the evening shift, she always asks me to pray with her when I dispense medications,” Rita said. “I always look forward to this and it is such a comfort to pray with Sister Thaddine at her bedtime,” she added. “She even recalls my niece who was diagnosed with autism more than 25 years ago and who she had prayed for; and that means so much to me,” Rita said fondly.
"Sister Thaddine was a perfectionist and expected her students to follow her example and be the same," said Joyce Bell who was a student of Sister Thaddine, later taught with her at St. John's School of Nursing, and now is one of her caregivers at the Motherhouse. "She worked with the students side by side and her through her example she wanted them to be like her," Joyce said. "She never passed up an opportunity to teach and I saw her frequently diagnose the patient before the doctor," Joyce added.
Celebrating the publishing of her book
In 2004, Sister Thaddine’s book, “Pearls of Wisdom,” was published. In it her collection of poetry, stories for children and youth, and inspirational essays are compiled into 110-page collaboration with her niece, Charmaine Chopp Kneevers.
In the foreword, Sister Thaddine writes “I was born in the copper country of the upper peninsula of Michigan on April 26, 1914. When I was seven years old, the copper mines where my father worked were closing, and my family moved to Sheboygan, WI to find other work for my father. Even as a child, I enjoyed literature and especially poetry.”
She entered the Hospital Sisters in 1943 and professed final vows in 1951. She is a graduate of St. John’s School of Nursing and received a bachelor and master degree in nursing from St. Louis University. She also completed post graduate studies at the Chicago Mental Health Institute.
An excerpt from “Pearls of Wisdom”
On page 109 of the book, the closing that was written in December 1999, she wrote the following:
“While Sisters are fewer in number today, there is still the burning desire and spark, alive and throbbing, to bring Christ to hurting and needy souls. I have lived through the last 85 years of 1900. I have found a haven in my religious life because Jesus is still in control, and in this evening of my life, I spend more time with prayer and in the quiet of my soul.”
“Today, you see Sisters attired in contemporary clothing but wearing an identifying symbol. Though they may look to you like any other women, they are still the same dedicated Sisters giving their lives to Jesus Christ, trying to weed through the brokenness of humanity with their love and zeal.”
“So, having flown through the reign of seven Popes, fourteen Presidents of the United States, six wars, and all the fantastic things that the 1900s have birthed, let’s get off of this flying magic carpet now. There is work to be done and prayers of thanks to say. Alleluia!”