Anita M. Caspary, IHM, (Sister Humiliata) beloved member of the Immaculate Heart Community, died peacefully on October 5, 2011 surrounded by her family, Immaculate Heart Community members at the IHM Residence, and her longtime dear friend, Susan Maloney, SNJM. Leader, teacher, poet, author, Anita was an IHM for 75 years.
Anita was one of four daughters and two sons, born into a German-Catholic family; her parents, Jacob Caspary and Marie Bruch had moved to Los Angeles in 1917 from Herrick, South Dakota, Anita's birthplace. Family life revolved around their local church, St. Joseph's. Anita described their participation in parish life, "The Franciscan spirit of family and faith pervaded our lives and greatly influenced my formative religious education."
After Anita graduated from Bishop Conaty High School, she attended Immaculate Heart College, where she developed her interest in literature, drama, and the arts and earned her B.A. in English in 1936.
In 1936, Anita entered the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart and was assigned to teach at Immaculate Heart High School and at St. Bernardine's High School, San Bernardino. She went on to earn her M.A. in English from USC; then her PhD from Stanford University. Teaching years at Immaculate Heart College included being Chair of the English department and later, Graduate Dean of the college. Her former students kept in touch through the years, grateful for her influence and guidance that led them to pursue their careers, nurture family life, and maintain friendships.
From 1958 to 1963 Anita served as president of Immaculate Heart College, of which she wrote, "I treasure the memory of a vibrant, energetic and creative institution." Her election as Mother General in 1963 was the beginning of her leadership for ten critical years as the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart evolved into a new relationship as Immaculate Heart Community. Anita chronicled the struggles of those post-Vatican II years in her book, Witness to Integrity: The Crisis of the Immaculate Heart Community of California in which she detailed her personal journey and the process that led the sisters to answer the call to a new way of being in community, based on Gospel values. She had the unique distinction of having served as a leader both of a congregation of Catholic sisters and then as the leader of an ecumenical community. For this, she was featured on the cover of TIME magazine, February 23, 1970.
In the seventies, Anita taught on the faculty of the Franciscan School of Theology and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA, returning in 1980 to live in community at the IHM Residence in Los Angeles. She served on the staff of the Peace and Justice Center of Southern CA, which developed educational programs on the social justice teachings of the Church. She also taught courses in the Feminist Spirituality Program of Immaculate Heart College Center, which was established following the close of Immaculate Heart College in 1980.
Anita described her life in community at the IHM Residence as "rewarding and comfortable," sharing prayer, reflection, and community life. She continued to write poetry, read, and enjoy participating in activities of the Immaculate Heart Community. At age 95, she had completed a volume of her poetry and was anticipating publication. In her honor, the Anita Caspary Lecture Series was established in 2005 as an educational program for the public. The lecture series continues with guests who speak "from the heart" about their spiritual journey and experience in answering the call to discipleship. The next lecture is scheduled for Nov. 6.
Anita's 75 years in Community have enriched the lives of community members, her former students, friends, and family. She is survived by her sisters, Gretchen De Stefano, Ursula Caspary Frankel, and Marion Roxstrom, and by her brother, Gerard (wife, Patricia), (pre-deceased by Gilbert), and many nieces and nephews. Anita will be remembered for her gentle presence, her faithfulness to God and the IHM Community, her courageous leadership, and for her integrity, wisdom, and serenity. Although her later years were marked by frail health, she continued to preach the Gospel by word and presence. Prophet and poet, Anita leaves a legacy of unwavering faith and unconditional love.
The Mass of the Resurrection to celebrate the life of Anita Caspary IHM will be celebrated on October 22, 2011 at 9:00 a.m. at Immaculate Heart High School, 5515 FrankIin Ave., Los Angeles 90028. Burial will be at Calvary Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Anita's memory may be made to: Immaculate Heart Community, 5515 Franklin Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90028.