Sister Anthony Marie Unitas, MM

Born: July 20, 1890
Entered: October 29, 1928
Died: July 31, 1987

Sister Anthony Marie Unitas died in our Maryknoll Nursing Home on July 31, 1987. Sister attended an ice-cream party on the day she died. Sister Marian Pahl asked Sister ten days ago if she’d ever thought about going to Heaven. Her response, “Not yet.”

Margaret Mary Unitas was born in July 20, 1890 in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania to Andrew and Margaret Grusdis Unitas, members of the small Lithuanian immigrant community in rural Pennsylvania. She had four sisters and a brother and is survived by her sister, Agnes.

Margaret Mary’s education was quite varied – some grade school in Shenandoah, a dressmaking course and private high school tutoring with the Lithuanian pastor of the parish. She followed this with courses at Columbia University in Latin, mathematics and history, a course in dietetics at Drexel Institute in Pennsylvania, a course in elocution and, during World War I, she took and passed the State Licensing Board exam in car mechanics and got a chauffeur’s license. All this preceded her three year nursing course which she took through the Columbia University Extension Service.

After sixteen years of hospital and private duty nursing, Margaret Mary applied to Maryknoll at age 38. She was attracted to the community through The Field Afar magazine and thought she could put her many skills to good use in China. At her formal reception she was given her religious name “Sister Anthony Marie.” She made her first vows in 1931 here at the Knoll and was assigned to Kaying, China that same year. Her final vows were made in Kowloon, Hong Kong in 1934.

Perhaps the most noted quality of Sister Anthony Marie throughout her Maryknoll years was her love of people and desire to be with people and share with then. She attended all activities with the Chinese Sister-Candidates and the Kaying Diary notes that even in her first year of language study, “Sister Anthony Marie never fails to get her ideas across to the Chinese.” She served as a catechist and house visitor and also worked in the dispensary and with patients with Hansen’s disease. Her eagerness for new experiences enabled her to make the best of mission hardships in days when a village visit often meant a three-day walk through a countryside not always welcoming to us “foreign devils.” Sister Anthony Marie was one of the group of  Kaying Sisters who worked closely with Bishop Ford and resonated with his view of mission as one part self, ninety-nine parts adaptation to the people.

In her one year at St. Joseph’ s Hospital in Shanghai, the war pressures mounted and the area was bombed daily – in one week, the Sisters helped to bury six hundred dead.

In 1939, Sister Anthony Marie was assigned to nursing work in our Sanitorium in Monrovia, California, and she stayed on there through the closure of the hospital. She retired at Monrovia and was a mainstay of that community for many years.

She came here in 1981 and has been a joy to all of us in the house. Complaining that the Nursing Home “has no social life, they all go to bed” she recruited card players. Her most willing adversary has been Sr. Marian Pahl.

Sister Anthony Marie’s deafness in her later years engendered many wonderful stories – which she enjoyed and told on herself. My favorite occurred during a Prayer Service in Chapel. It was one of those pauses that seemed to go on and on – and no one knew who was to do the next part. The silence stretched, and stretched, and then, loud and clear, “Doesn’t anyone know what’s supposed to happen now?”

And so we entrust our Sister to God who surely knows what’s “supposed to happen now.” Sister Anthony Marie’s life was a gift to us – of humor, of joy in whatever service she could offer, of loving nursing care for many years. We will miss her here, and we extend our sympathy also to her family here with us today.

We welcome Father Nobiletti of the Maryknoll Fathers General Council who will celebrate with us the Mass of the Resurrection in grateful remembrance of our Sister.