Sister M. Francis DeSales Marsland, MM

Born: August 11, 1907
Entered: December 22, 1932
Died: May 21, 1984

Sister M. Francis de Sales Marsland died peacefully on Monday morning, May 21st, 1984. She was seventy-six years old and a Maryknoll Sister for fifty-one years.

Ida Mary Marsland was born in Williamstown, New Jersey on August 11, 1907, the daughter of Henry and Mary Noonan Marsland. She had one sister whom she loved dearly and with whom she kept very close contact through the years.

Ida received her early education in the parochial schools in New Brunswick, Canada, and later completed high school and a year of college at Mt. St. Vincent’s in Halifax, Nova Scotia. These early years of schooling gave her a keen appetite for learning which only increased with the years.

In 1929, Sister Francis de Sales earned her R.N. from St. Mary’s Hospital in Brooklyn, and after working as a visiting nurse, entered Maryknoll on December 22, 1932. Even in these early years Sister demonstrated a sense of stewardship and  responsibility evidenced by her asking Mother Mary Joseph for permission to enter some two weeks later than her group in order to give sufficient notice to her employer and to earn a last pay check to cover her expenses.

Following First Profession on June 30, 1935, Sister received her Teacher’s Certificate from Maryknoll Normal School and was assigned to China in 1936. Her first mission was at Fushun, Manchuria, then Dairen, where she made her Final Profession on June 30, 1938. In December 1940, Sister was temporarily assigned to Hawaii where she began her teaching career on the island of Maui. Although she did not coin the expression, “Maui no ka oe”, she surely lived her love for that island. Nevertheless, she joyously accepted teaching assignments to Punahou, and Kalihi on Oahu, before returning to Maui to complete a 28 year ‘temporary’ assignment. Sister received her Bachelor of Education degree at Maryknoll Teachers College. Over the years she devoted many summers to on—going education courses, always concerned to keep up with the latest innovations in her field.

Following a two-year assignment to Chicago Chinatown, Sister Francis returned to The Center in 1970. With never a thought of retirement, in 1974 she began anew in mission at Our Lady of Good Counsel School with the Sisters of Charity of Convent Station at Westwood, New Jersey. She was to devote this last decade of her life to this cherished ministry, zealously committed to the education of children, whom she loved dearly – and this was certainly evident in the touching letters (received last evening) from the first grade children at Visitation School after they learned of the death of their teacher and friend. Sister Francis constantly sought opportunities to inculcate in her students and among her faculty colleagues an awareness of mission and a concern for the poor and the less fortunate of the world.

Sister Francis de Sales was such an interesting, colorful and unusual person, it is difficult to share adequately the various aspects of her personality. She was a woman of deep prayer, and throughout the years the contemplative life always held a special attraction for her. A woman of strong determination, she believed in taking the situation in hand. Though at times this firmness of purpose could be exasperating, no one could ever question her motivation. She was straightforward and guileless.

Many who knew her have remarked on her unfailing kindness, goodness and optimism, which enabled her to endure whatever life had to offer with a ready, warm smile, and a twinkle in her eye. One Sister remarked, “Sister Francis de Sales was one of the happiest people I’ve known…She enjoyed every minute of her life and ministry.” Many found her a model of virtue and an exemplary Religious in all her activities.

Through the years Sister Francis de Sales valued the bond with her Maryknoll family and lately traveled long hours each week in order to spend time with her Sisters and friends. In her own words, “I feel coming home to Maryknoll reinforces the Maryknoll bond.”

In the end, Sister left us as she would have wanted, in the midst of carefully planning an exciting and interesting summer. A letter detailing her Renewal plans for study, updating and retreat, was dated May 18th, just 3 days before her death, and included a request to work out alternate arrangements to continue tutoring at Visitation through 1985. It was so like Sister Francis de Sales, a gracious and considerate woman, with a deep desire to remain bonded with her Sisters that she died here with her beloved Maryknoll family.

We extend our sincere sympathy to Sister’s family. We are honored by the presence of so many of Sisters colleagues from the faculties of Good Counsel and Visitation Schools and by her friends among the Sisters of Charity.

We welcome especially Father Donald Ransom and Father John Merity from Visitation Parish, who will join with our Celebrant, Maryknoll Father Joseph Picardi, in this Eucharistic Liturgy of Remembrance and Thanksgiving.