Sister Jane Bruce, MM

Born: January 16, 1927
Entered: September 6, 1944
Died: April 2, 2005

As dawn arrived on April 2, 2005, the Church began one of its most memorable days in recent history. The Entrance Antiphon of the Mass proclaimed, “The Lord led the people to freedom and they shouted with joy and gladness.” At 4:15 a.m. in Maryknoll Residential Care III our Sister Jane Bruce died peacefully, having been brought there late the previous evening. One of our nursing staff was with her when she died and she was quickly joined by Jane’s dear friend, Sister Mary Connell, our Sisters in health care and others. Before that day ended, Jane was joined in Heaven by Pope John Paul II, and a few hours later by Sister Loretta Hoffman.

Margaret Jane Bruce was born on January 16, 1927 in Glens Falls, New York, the second of four children of Arthur and Elsie Yarter Bruce, both now deceased.

Jane grew up in what she describes as a happy family and graduated Valedictorian from her class at Hudson Falls Public High School. This was all the more remarkable since two of her high school years were spent away, one in Radford, Virginia and the other in Montreal, due to her father’s work for the War Department and the family’s desire to be with him. From childhood Jane wanted to be a Sister, what kind she wasn’t sure until her senior year when news of Maryknoll reached her. It seemed the perfect fit, which was clearly attested to in both Jane’s assessment and that of her superiors and Sisters.

Jane entered Maryknoll on September 6, 1944 from St. Mary Parish where she had been confirmed, desiring, as she put it, to spread the faith in foreign countries. At Reception she received the Religious name of Sister Jane Marie. She made her First Profession of Vows on March 7, 1947 and her Final Profession on the same date in 1950, both at the Motherhouse.

From the Novitiate, Jane took selected classes at Maryknoll Teachers College, then obtained a B.A. in Social Sciences at Manhattanville College, N.Y. in 1950, followed in 1952 by a M.A. in Social Work from the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. Jane never left the social work field. Even while working here in housekeeping, she kept an eye out for those who needed her help. Stories of Jane’s kindness are legendary. Her ability to reach the hearts of the most difficult, those who felt alienated, was well known.

She was assigned to Chicago in 1952 where she worked four years at the Catholic Dependent Child Commission, a branch of Catholic Social Service, helping with families whose children were in foster care or institutions. In 1956 she was assigned to Hawaii and began work there as part of the first generation of Social Workers for Catholic Social Service in Honolulu. Again her work focused on the care of needful children and their families. For many years she was a Supervisor of Staff and Field Supervisor of University social work students. Jane served twenty-two years in these capacities, and later was also a supervisor in Elderly Services.

Here at Maryknoll, Jane was an elected delegate from Hawaii to the 1968 Special Chapter. Then, from 1978 to 1980 she worked as Executive Housekeeper, and from 1980 to 1985 as Associate Director of the Maryknoll Sisters Personnel Department. She returned to Hawaii and during the period of 1985 to 1990 continued part-time in parish social work while, for three of those years, she served as Regional Coordinator for the Maryknoll Sisters. She then returned to the Center and was appointed the Certified Social Worker for the then New York State licensed Maryknoll Nursing Home, in which capacity she served for five years.

Jane gave those who knew her a sense of great joy and purpose. Her easygoing manner, welcoming approach and genuine caring extended an invitation to so many. She was sensible, playful and courageous. In the days when the habit was an issue, Jane wrote Mother Mary Coleman to share her opinion on this matter. She was known to speak clearly to a point whether or not the view was popular or one held by the majority.

She was a lover of people, just as they are, a facilitator, negotiator, compassionate healer, peacemaker. She was joy filled, the life of a party, grateful to family and friends, caregivers and medical people in and out of Maryknoll. Her prayer ministry for Maryknoll Archives was fulfilled faithfully and with devotion to the Staff for many years.

Unknown to many Jane discerned about leading a more contemplative life but chose to remain actively engaged. However, her time for prayer was set and special. An interruption however was welcomed and the person never was hurried along.

Jane leaves a big hole in our lives at Maryknoll and we sadly though with joy approach the altar today bringing her life to our God for the fullness of blessing. We welcome this Liturgy of the Resurrection and welcome with gratitude Father Clyde Phillips, our Maryknoll brother.