A Felician nun has gone missing for the second time, more than a century after her violent death.
On a warm afternoon in August of 1907, Sister Mary Janina disappeared from her remote convent in Northern Michigan. The only clues were these: a rosary swinging on the convent’s doorknob and a prayerbook left on a windowsill, its pages fluttering in the breeze. She had been a teaching nun, responsible for educating the children of Holy Rosary Catholic Church, assigned to the flyspeck town of Isadore by her superiors at the Felician Motherhouse in Detroit.
For the next decade, parishioners, the law, her priest, Pinkerton detectives, and a local dog handler with a bloodhound for hire searched for her, to no avail. Ambition and progress did finally find her that first time, though; a new priest decided to tear down the old wooden church and replace it with a Gothic-styled brick one, her bones were found buried in the dirt-floored basement, surrounded by the rotting fabric of her nun’s habit. Stella, the convent’s housekeeper, was arrested for the crime and the case caused a sensation in the Catholic Church and in the courts.
“Charged with the slaying at Isadore, the housekeeper was alleged to have made a confession, giving jealousy as the motive for the crime,” The New York Times reported on October 26, 1919. Though Stella protested her innocence in court, the prosecution set up a table in front of the jury and laid the nun’s bones, one by one, upon it. With each knock of bone on wood, Stella’s guilt echoed louder in the minds of the jury.
And it was there that Sister Janina disappeared for the second time. There is no record of where her remains were taken after the trial. She had no funeral, there is no marked grave, the current parishioners of Holy Rosary call it simply “the tragedy” and today shoo away outsiders, and even the Felician Motherhouse has lost track of one of their own. Rumors from elders say she is buried in Holy Rosary’s cemetery, pictured above, but a map of the grounds does not list her as an eternal resident. A Centennial History published by the church does not even list her.
Still, someone must know where Sister Janina is buried. Do you?