Funeral Service for Sister Mary Leo Bleth
Sister Mary Leo Bleth, 92, a founder of the Benedictine Sisters of Annunciation Monastery, Bismarck, entered eternal life Saturday (Jan. 7) in a Bismarck care center.
Sister Mary Leo was born Feb. 9, 1913, in Glen Ullin, N.D. to Heronimus and Margaretha (Wetzstein) Bleth. The ninth of 12 children, she was baptized Ottilia Elizabeth. When she was five, her mother died and to compensate for this loss in her life, Sister Mary Leo developed a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Sometime after her father remarried, the family moved to a farm south of Hazen, N.D. Because of the scarcity of boys in the family, Sister Mary Leo helped with the farming and the coal mining (a mine was located on the farmstead). She recalled that the summer before she entered the convent, she sowed 500 acres of wheat with a plow behind four horses. A true daughter of the prairie, she carried this hard and dedicated work ethic throughout her life.
She entered St. Benedict’s Monastery, St. Joseph, Minn. in 1930 and made monastic profession on July 11, 1935.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Catholic University, Washington, D.C. and taught in the nursing program at St. Cloud Hospital, St. Cloud, Minn. before joining the new community of Annunciation Monastery in 1944.
In the Bismarck diocese, she taught in the St. Alexius School of Nursing and served as a nurse at St. Alexius, Beulah Hospital, Riverdale Hospital, St. Vincent’s Care Center and was administrator of Richardton Memorial Hospital, Richardton and St. Benedict’s Home in Dickinson. She even taught for two years at St. Joseph’s Grade School in Dickinson.
She also was a public health nurse in southwestern North Dakota and was instrumental in getting the senior citizen center started in Dickinson and helped plan Pioneer Haven, low income housing in Dickinson. For over a decade she served in the nursing skills center at the University of Mary.
She enjoyed history and spent 10 years researching her family tree and having it published in manuscript form. She was active in the North Dakota Historical Society of Germans from Russia and the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia.
Before Christmas Sister Mary Leo told one of her visitors that she was getting ready to go home. “I just have to figure out what to leave behind,’ she said. On Saturday this woman who served God and other people faithfully for so many years was ready and God called her home.
She is survived by many nieces and nephews and the Sisters of Annunciation Monastery.