Skip to main content

David and Mary Hoysic collection on Sister Marie-Pierre Semler

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: RITArc-0436

Scope and Contents

The David & Mary Hoysic collection on Sister Marie-Pierre Semler contains the following:

  1. 1 biographical essay on Sister Marie Pierre Semler and her work
  2. 1 catalog from the exhibit “Oasis in the Night Art Works and Writings by Marie Pierre Semler, M.M.”
  3. 1 essay “Summary of David and Mary Hoysic’s role in art collection”
  4. 1 letter dated January 9, 2006 from David and Mary Hoysic explaining the importance of Sister Marie-Pierre Semler
  5. 1 timeline of the life of Sr. Marie Pierre Semler, M.M.
  6. 1 VHS Tape (30 minutes): “Real to Reel,” March 8, 2003; “Lost in the beauty of her God” (10 mins); “Sr. Marie Pierre Semler, Watkins Glen”; “Mary and David Hoysic,” Sept. 2002
  7. 2 brochures “Lost in the beauty of her God”


  • Creation: circa 1991-2006


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers.

Biographical / Historical

Sr. Marie Pierre was born Bertha Josephine Semler, March 23, 1901 to Lena Baum and Anthony Semler from Chili, N.Y. Sr. Marie Pierre moved in with a family on Wooden Street in Rochester, NY, where she cared for two ill sisters during the flu epidemic of 1918. At the same time (1917-1920), she attended art classes at the Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute, presently Rochester Institute of Technology. The night classes that she attended were in composition and technique. This was her only “formal” artistic training.

Sr. Pierre entered the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic in Ossining, New York in 1925 at the age of 24 and took the name, Sr. Marie Pierre Semler. Upon entering the Maryknoll Sisters her desire was to travel to China to care for the Chinese babies. A routine physical determined that she had a heart murmur, and it was decided she could not endure the rigors of mission life. Mother Mary Joseph, the foundress of the Maryknoll Sisters, being aware of Sr. Pierre’s early artistic efforts, placed her in charge of the art department at the convent, working on illustrations for the Field Afar magazine, presently the Maryknoll Magazine.

Sr. Marie Pierre began creating oil paintings and pencil drawings early in the 1930’s and continued through that decade. In 1941, a broken wrist prohibited her from painting, so she attended a summer class at Maryknoll given by a Russian artist and his wife to learn sculpting clay. She realized she could accomplish this using her left hand and molded her first piece which was named Lord of Life. She then made a mold of the piece and cast it in stone. The stone was a formula that she developed and used throughout the next several years. Thus began the decades of stone sculpture. During this same period of time she began wood carvings. She used wood found on the Maryknoll grounds, as well as exotic wood sent to her from the mission countries by her Maryknoll Sisters.

The grounds of Maryknoll brought Sr. Pierre to her next phase of artistry. While walking the grounds, she felt she became even more aware of the gifts of Gods creations. She could see the wonder in the trees and wood in their natural settings and thus began the “woodland sculpture” phase of her work. Accompanied often by a Maryknoll Sister, Sr. Pierre would walk the property and bring into her studio special pieces of wood that touched her heart. Most often she would only clean them and find a message in the wood. These would be the most “contemporary” of her art pieces. During all the phases of her work, Sr. Marie Pierre continually wrote descriptions, meditations, and poetry to accompany her pieces. As time passed, and she grew less able to create art work, she spent a lot of her time perfecting the writings and poetry.

The 68 years spent as a Maryknoll Sister exemplifed a lifetime of creative activities. She was a very humble person, and did not want her name mentioned, only “A Maryknoll Sister.” She created 1,197 pieces of artwork, and is still touching people with her message. She died on October 18, 1993, at the age of 92.


0.5 Linear Feet (1 half document box)




The David and Mary Hoysic collection on Sister Marie-Pierre Semler contains biographical information about the life of RIT alumna Sister Marie Pierre Semler, and information about her artwork. Materials include a brochure, a biographical essay, a timeline, and an exhibit catalog. Also included is a VHS tape about her work.


Collection is arranged by material type.

Other Finding Aids

In addition to this finding aid, an inventory is available below. For more information, please contact the RIT Archive Collections.

David & Mary Hoysic collection on Sister Marie-Pierre Semler

Immediate Source of Acquisition

David & Mary Hoysic collection on Sister Marie-Pierre Semler was donated to the RIT Archives by Mary and David Hoysic in June 2011. Accession number(s): 2012:029

Materials Specific Details

The VHS tape includes 10 minutes of "Lost in the Beauty of her God" March 8, 2003, and 30 minutes of Sr. Marie Pierre Semler, Watkins Glen, Mary & David Hoysic, September 2002.

Processing Information

Finding aid created by Jody Sidlauskas in December 2012.

David & Mary Hoysic collection on Sister Marie-Pierre Semler
RIT Archives
Jody Sidlauskas
10 December 2012
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the RIT Archives Repository

Rochester NY 14623 USA