Sister Petra Lenta, OSB, died March 6, 2019 at St. Scholastica Monastery, in her 80th year of Monastic Profession.
Mary Caroline Lenta was born to Louis and Louise (Somma) Lenta on April 25, 1920 in Duluth, Minnesota. Both parents were Italian immigrants and devout Catholics. Sister Petra often reminisced about the Italian-American activities that were a part of the “Little Italy” group of Italian immigrants in the area, including picnics with trips up the St. Louis River and the Christmas-time rivalry over which woman made the best fruit cake.
After graduating from Sacred Heart Cathedral High School, Sister attended The College of St. Scholastica and completed her freshman year before entering St. Scholastica Monastery. In 1942, she earned her BA in Chemistry with a minor in Mathematics. Immediately following her college graduation, she entered a three-year program of the Institutum Divi Thomae in Cincinnati where she specialized in cancer research. She graduated with an MS in Biochemistry in 1945. Upon her return to Duluth, she and +Sister Agatha Riehl established the Cancer Research Unit at The College of St. Scholastica. Sister Petra taught in the Biology and Chemistry Departments from 1945-59 and 1960-1976.
After a two-year sabbatical studying the history and theology of monasticism, Sister taught science to students of Assumption School in Hibbing, Minnesota for four years. Eventually she returned to Duluth and did catechetical teaching at St. Raphael Church, Duluth and Holy Assumption Church, Superior, Wisconsin.
Sister was a very active member of numerous academic committees. She served on the Boards of Hibbing General Hospital, the American Cancer Society, and as a council member of St. Scholastica Monastery. In support of her cancer research at The College of St. Scholastica she was awarded ten grants from the American Cancer Society, five from Damon-Runyon Memorial Fund, one from the Duluth Clinic Foundation, and one from the Sigma Xi Foundation. The Cancer Research Unit was active for over thirty years during which time she and Sister Agatha authored significant articles on cancer research.
Sister maintained a large prayer wall in her room with beautiful quotations from saints and spiritual leaders, especially Thomas Merton. Her wall reminded her of all things great, small, and wonderful. Hope resided on this wall and in the heart of Sister Petra Lenta.
Morning Prayer/Wake service was held at 10 a.m. and the Mass of Christian Burial at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, March 12, 2019 in Our Lady Queen of Peace Chapel, Father William Fider presiding. Interment was in Gethsemane Cemetery, on a blessedly mild and dry day. Arrangements were through Dougherty Funeral Home. Memorials to St. Scholastica Monastery are preferred.