1362 Leonard NW
Grand Rapids, MI. 49504
Bella Morte Rating: 1 Tombstone
Across the street from Greenwood Cemetery in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is Mount Calvary Catholic Cemetery. The Fritz memorial, featuring a large seated angel holding a wreath in her left hand, is quite visible from Leonard Street and served to help entice us to enter the unexceptional cemetery grounds.
True to our expectations, the cemetery offered little to hold our attention; however, we did discover a small area in the northeast section of the grounds with a Fatima Grotto which appeared to be reserved for members of a Religious Order. Closer inspection revealed it to be the final resting place for members of the Contemplative Sisters of the Good Shepherd. Their mortal remains lie in the shadow of a crucifix with a foot stone proclaiming the place to be “Little Mount Calvary – Good Shepherd Cemetery – August 9, 1910.” Just behind the cemetery, was a complex we assumed to be associated with the nuns. Later research bore this out as we learned the buildings are part of Villa Maria, formerly a girls’ school and the convent of the Good Shepherd Sisters. Established on 14 March, 1904, the school closed some time ago. The property was repurposed as Villa Maria Retirement Community in 1987.
An entry from the Grand Rapids Annals describes the life and death of one of the founding members of the Good Shepherd Community, Sr. Mary St. Bartholomew, who died as a result of stomach cancer. The account concludes with a description of Sister Bartholomew’s funeral, a portion of which we now share with you:
“Sisters from all the local homes were at the services, and accompanied the remains to our little enclosure cemetery, where nature seemed to have spent all its powers beautifying the surroundings; the air was mild and silent, with only the tiny voices of myriad birds blending with the solemn chant of the large assembly, and those who were present said that the sight was one never-to-be-forgotten -- the long lines of Clergy, Sisters in white and black and brown and gray, crowds of secular ladies, members of the Good Shepherd Auxiliary, who were there to pay homage to the deceased and to the Order which she so fitly represented; the children of our Penitent class in black sateen skirts and pure white waists, with acolytes, students, and honorary pall-bearers, all slowly, solemnly winding their way to ‘Little Calvary.’ Sister was fifty-five years old and had spent twenty-six years in Religion."