Mary Lizzie Cassel she was born “near Mainland in lower salford of Montg. Co.” on November 16, 1879. Her parents were Joel S. Cassel and Louisa S. Cassel, and she had one brother, Roland, and two sisters. Sister Mary was baptized by the Rev. James L. Becker and confirmed by him on November 4, 1893. She attended public school from 1887-1894. Before entering the diaconate, she worked for over three years as a seamstress in a clothing factory in “Silverdale, Bucks Co., PA.”
She entered the Philadelphia Motherhouse of Deaconesses on October 4, 1902 and was invested on April 8, 1903. She was consecrated on June 7, 1908. During the time before her consecration, she would have been engaged in deaconess training, which included religious training, regular schoolwork, and in her case, training for household work and nursing. She worked primarily in household and kitchen work, including cooking. There is a little confusion about where she worked. One source lists her work places as St. John’s Hospital, Allegheny, Pittsburgh, 1909-1929; River Crest, a tuberculosis “preventorium,”1929-1932; Tabor Home, a children’s home, 1932-1933; and Erie Home for Aged, 1933-1936. Her obituary lists, without dates, Lankenau Hospital, Philadelphia; Easton Hospital, Easton, Pennsylvania; River Crest, and the Philadelphia Motherhouse. She was apparently at the motherhouse in 1941, when a letter from Sister Anna Ebert, the directing deaconess, asked her to work for a month in the “Old Folks Home,” which was the Mary J. Drexel Home. The Mary J. Drexel Home and Philadelphia Motherhouse of Deaconesses was one institution in one building. She may have worked in the two hospitals after leaving the Erie Home. Sister Anna mentions in the 1941 letter that Dr. Fretz of Easton had died and asked if Sister Mary would attend his funeral. The Lankenau Hospital was part of the large complex where the Mary J. Drexel Home and Philadelphia Motherhouse was located.
One interesting fact about Sister Mary Cassel is that she was allowed to work at River Crest for a salary during 1929-1931. At that time, deaconess salaries were paid directly to the motherhouse. The deaconess received room and board, her garb, and a small allowance for personal items. These continued for her lifetime. Sister Mary was allowed to receive her salary so that she could help her widowed mother.
Sister Mary retired on January 2, 1942. She lived at the motherhouse and helped out there. In 1951, she had several slight strokes and lost the use of her right arm and could not stand on her right foot. She died on October 18, 1951. Her funeral service was held in the chapel of the motherhouse on October 23, and a second funeral at Christ Church, Mainland. She was buried at Mainland.
Sister Mary was a member of Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church in Towamencin Township, Montgomery County, PA. The church, now Christ Lutheran Church, Kulpsville, PA, was preparing for its 175th anniversary in 2008. A parishioner told Nancy Stevens, the congregational archivist, that she had once been a member of the Sister Mary Cassel Sunday School Class. No one knew anything about Sister Mary, so Mrs. Stevens asked the ELCA Archives for help. This article is the result.