Esther Florence M. Diaz was born on August 21, 1900 in Brooklyn, NY as one of four children born to Socorro and Esther (Doyle) Diaz. In April 1918 she enters Congregation of Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul and starts her Postulancy in St.Louis, MO. Next year, 1919, she graduates high school from St. Joseph School in New Orleans, LA and for the first ministry is sent to St Vincent School in San Francisco, CA. In 1925 is sent to China, where she works for two years in an orphanage in the Our Lady of Miraculous Medal mission in Poyang, Jiangxi province in China. Political unrests forced her and her fellow sisters to leave the country in 1927. She is assigned to teach in St. Joseph School in St Louis, MO.
Sister Esther left the country again to teach at Immaculate Conception Academy in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, from 1931-1933. After returning to the U.S., she resumed teaching at St. Joseph in New Orleans and completed a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Spanish and English from Loyola University in New Orleans in 1936. Beginning in 1942, Sister Esther taught at St. Vincent High School, San Francisco; St. Patrick High School, Chicago; and Cathedral School in Natchez. In 1971, Sister was appointed Assistant Provincial Treasurer, serving first in Chicago and later at Evansville, IN. In September of 1972, Sister Esther was missioned to St. Patrick Center in Chicago, where she served as the local superior, until she went into semi-retirement in 1975.
In August 1975 she moved to Mater Dei Provincial House in Evansville for semi-retirement. At Mater Dei, among other jobs Sr. Esther baked bran muffins — potato chip cookies were one of her specialties — and worked as a receptionist. One of her housemates from those days, Sr Catherine Hoppe DC, recalls that, "She was very friendly and very welcoming to everybody" being always at the reception desk to greet incoming residents and visitors no matter what time they arrived. "She would stay up to all hours to greet people." says Sr Hoppe.
Due to her age and health in November 1991, Sr. Diaz moved to Seton Residence on New Harmony Road in Evansville, a retirement house for Daughters of Charity. Among her 59 fellow residents there several sisters who are her former students as well. One of them, Sr. Marion Purpura DC, who took a secretarial course from Sr. Esther in a high school in Chicago, recalls that she was beloved teacher with motherly attitude toward students, who "were crazy about her".
Slowed by the age Diaz was not much up to talking in recent days, but her former associates and staff members like to share stories about her life. Sr. Teresita Heenan DC, an assistant activities director at Seton Residence, who in 1970 worked with her in Natchez, Missouri, recalls the visit of F.B.I. agents seeking information about illegal gambling. Sr. Esther, who was superioress, said, according to Heenan, she knew nothing about gambling, but warmly invited federal agents to visit and have some cookies and tea with sisters. Even presently, Sr. Esther often wants to share her meals with others to make sure everyone has enough to eat.
On August 21, 2000 Esther Diaz celebrated her 100th birthday. 100 baloons released were one of the celebrations. Nowadays, according to her nurse, Carol Knaebel, "She takes very few medications and is hardly ever sick."
Sister Esther Diaz died at Seton Residence, Evansville, IN, at 3:20 p.m. on January 19, 2009. She was survived by many nieces, nephews and cousins, mostly from New York and New Jersey, and her Sisters in Community. She was buried be in St. Joseph Cemetery in Evansville na January 23, 2009.
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