Sister Wenceslaus, taken by the flu

This story is about a beloved nun who died at age 22 from the flu. Until I saw this story, I had not heard about a burning tongue as part of the torment of the flu.

“Among the victims of the fearful disease of the past year we lament our dear little
SISTER MARY WENCESLAUS PANKA. She was one of sixteen children, a twin given to her pious parents who lived on a extensive farm near Prairie du Chien.

Little Rose entered the Candidature of Notre Dame for our lady’s Nativity in 1913. With the exception of one year spent at St. Peter’s Chicago, her mission was St. Stephen’s among the little Slovak children whom she loved tenderly. These in turn loved little Sister Rose, as she was called while Candidate and still more Sister Wenceslaus, which name was given her at her reception.

Little Sister Wenceslaus was beloved by all who knew her. The simple childlike readiness with which she lent a helping hand wherever necessary endeared her to those who lived with her. No matter what the circumstances were, she never showed the least hesitation in granting any favor asked.

Sister was sent to St. John Neopomuc’s, November 16, 1918 and taught there from that time til December 4th, when the school had to be closed on account of two sisters being stricken with influenza, December 5th in the afternoon, Sister Wenceslaus became the third victim of the disease. She feared it greatly and said repeatedly that if she contracted it, she would die.

The Doctor did not think her seriously ill until Monday, when he found her having high fever. Tuesday morning, December 10th, he pronounced her case fatal, Pneumonia having set in; He ordered her to be taken to the hospital at once. On being told this, Sister at first remonstrated, but immediately added, “Oh  I don’t mind; possible I shall be well all the sooner if I am taken there.” As she was being carried out, she said, ” I’ll tell Saint Joseph to make me well, for I am going to him” [referring to the name of the hospital.]

Her mother and sister came Saturday December 14th, and found the dear patient conscious, but suffering an agony of pain, especially in the tongue. She cried aloud begging to have her tongue cut off, it was burning intensely. Then she called the priest to hear her confession once more before she would die. The Capuchin Father came and heard her confession, Soon after she became delirious and died shortly after midnight, Sunday December 15th.”

Contributed by Jennifer Buehler, written by her great-uncle, lightly edited by Lori Lyn Price

To learn more about the church visit https://onmilwaukee.com/history/articles/nepomuc.html. Neither Jennifer nor I could find pictures of Sister Wenceslaus or the church that were free of copyright.

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