Biographies

Sister Mary Alice Reilly, MM

Born: March 5, 1910
Entered: October 15, 1928
Died: October 10, 2010

Sister Mary Alice Reilly died peacefully October 10, 2010 at Maryknoll Sisters Residential Care IV. She was 100 years old and had been a Maryknoll Sister for 81 years.

Mary Alice was born in Toledo, OH on March 5, 1910 to Mary (Duszlak) and Joseph Letki who were Polish immigrants from Germany. She had three sisters and two brothers. Her parents died when she was very young.  When Mary Alice was seven years of age, she was adopted by John and Alice Reilly, immigrants from Ireland and moved to Philadelphia with the Reilly family. Her Letki siblings, her adopted parents, brother and two sisters have all predeceased her.

Mary Alice studied at West Catholic High School in Philadelphia graduating in 1928. She entered Maryknoll at Ossining, NY from St. Francis de Sales parish on October 15 the same year. She received the religious name Sister Rose Carmel. She made her First Profession of Vows on January 6, 1931 and her Final Vows on the same day in 1934, both at Maryknoll, NY. She received a Teachers’ Certificate from Maryknoll Teachers’ Training School in 1934. In 1944 she received a B.S. in Philosophy from Seattle College, Seattle, WA.

Sister Mary Alice was assigned to Seattle in 1934 where she served the Japanese community for 10 years.   She lived through the agony of World War II with them, watching the people she loved relocated in internment camps while their sons, whom she had taught, called to fight on American battlefields. In 1944 she joined the Cloistered branch of the Maryknoll Sisters where she had wanted to be. After four years she returned to the active community and was assigned to Hawaii. She taught there for the next 20 years in Maryknoll schools in Punahou 1948-1950, in Waikiki 1950-57, and in Kaneohe 1957-1967.

In 1968, Sister Mary Alice was assigned to Guatemala to Helena Herlihy Hall where she worked for 3 years. She was a pioneer in setting up a center for formation of new missioners, the Instituto de Capacitación Misionera in Guatemala City. She returned to Maryknoll in 1971 where she was involved in administration, serving as Librarian in Mary Rogers College, on the Reception Desk, and in the Travel Office. She semi-retired in 1978 but continued to volunteer in different offices. She moved to the Maryknoll Residential Care unit in 1988 where she resided for the last 22 years until her death.  For her prayer ministry Sister had chosen Bolivia. In 2002, reflecting on her long life she said, “I consider my vocation as a search for God. Reading has helped  me to change  my mind about many things.   An open  mind  is good  for everybody.”  Her life and work in mission certainly reflected that openness.

Sr. Mary Alice left a letter, written in 1992, that she requested be read at her Funeral:
Dear Sisters,  Thank you everyone for the blessings that have come to me from membership in the Maryknoll Family.  The older I become the more I appreciate all of you.  Your spiritual beauty has been quite evident to me for many years and so I know that you are all precious in the sight of God.  I thank God that He called me to be a part of Maryknoll, and I thank you for the support your goodness gave to me.  If, at any time, I offended anyone of you, I take this last opportunity to say, “Please forgive me.”  As the sickness of my body becomes more acute and more painful, I look forward to the end of my journey on this earth.

On one occasion, Sr. Mary Alice shared the following reflection on community with Sr. Bernice Kita-
I looked out my window and saw a small group of birds suddenly rise up from a tree.  They responded to a sound I didn’t hear, but they heard it.  They rose up as one, yet each little bird gave all the others enough room in front and in back, above and below, to fly freely. I think that’s the way we should live as community: each one giving the others enough room to fly.

I would like you to have some special treat at dinner, the day of my funeral, as part of the celebration. I am very grateful to our nursing staff for the care we receive.  I grew quite fond of the Nurses, Aides, Housekeeping and Laundry staff and those in the Kitchen. So much kindness.

Good bye.  God be with all of you.  I hold you in my heart and I know that we will meet again.

We welcome and thank our Maryknoll brother, Father Thomas McDonnell, MM, who will preside at this Liturgy of Christian Burial.