Sister Maria Cordis Becker, MM

Born: June 2, 1911
Entered: December 6, 1930
Died: July 9, 1990

The best part of Sister Maria Cordis’ last mile with us was that she was accompanied on some very crucial last days by her companions of her early years, her sisters Corona and Rita. From Tacoma and San Diego they came to share these very special and precious days of her earthly life. Her death came on July 9, 1990.

Agnes Theresa Becker was born on June 2, 1911 in Tacoma, Washington. Her father William was a contractor; her mother Margaret Leibfried, was a piano teacher. Agnes was the oldest of five children, followed by Helena, a brother, and then Corona and Rita.

Upon graduation from high school Agnes expressed a desire to enter the convent, but her father’s wish was deferred to, and she spent the next year doing housework and caring for young children. A dowry and novitiate expense had to be met also, so the year served a double purpose.

On December 6, 1930, Agnes and Miss Rita Bonnin set off across the continent to enter Maryknoll. On June 24, 1933, together with other members of their entrance group they pronounced their First Vows. She received the name of Sister Maria Cordis.

Sister Maria Cordis attended Mary Rogers College and in July 1935 was assigned to Hawaii, first to St. Anthony’s, Kalihi where she pronounced her Final Vows; in 1938 to St. Ann’s, Kaneohe; and from 1951 to 1989 was stationed at Maryknoll Convent on Alexander Street. During this time she furthered her education, receiving her degree from the University of Hawaii.

She was a teacher, first, last and always. First grade reading was her particular love, and this was evidenced by the avalanche of mail which made its way to her when first her illness became known. One evaluation during this period of her life stated: “Sister Maria Cordis is one of Maryknoll’s greatest assets. Her children love her, her rapport with parents is very cordial, and her cooperation with administration is beautiful. The environment in Sister’s class is industrious, tension-free, and very happy.”

In November 1989, upon the closing of the Alexander Street convent, Sister Maria Cordis opted for residence with the Maryknoll Monrovia Community. She had written in her letter of February 1989 to the Monrovia Sisters: “Next June I will be 78 years young! My health is very good, except for a few minor problems.” Unfortunately, the minor problems became major ones within just weeks of her arrival in California. She had taken on a volunteer classroom helper job for a few hours daily at the local parish school, and her illness soon began to show.

In mid-June she was admitted to The Manor, the extended care unit of the Carmelite Sisters’ Santa Teresita Hospital. Amid the love and fine care there, she finished out her earthly course.

On May 30, 1977, Sister seemed to write her life summary, and perhaps saying to us today: “It is all right; it is part of my credo, I have always meant what I said and I have never taken it back – it is as good today as when I wrote it:

“Mission to me is being where I believe God wants me to be and doing what I believe He wants me to do. I’ve committed myself to Christ through Maryknoll and I try to keep close to Him and to His Mother by my daily work and prayer. It is through this life that I am able to witness to the Good News and to joyously teach it to so many of His children. Through all these years my Maryknoll family has been a strong support and a guiding light. My ‘niche’ is Hawaii and my direct contacts are here, but in my life as a Maryknoll Sister, through Christ and Mary, I am able to embrace the whole world and all its peoples. It is for this that I have dedicated my life – and so to the God who has chosen me for this life and this mission, I sing ‘Mahalo’, ‘Alleluia’.”

Our celebrant today is Passionist chaplain Father James Bush. Concelebrants are Father Jack Foley, pastor of our Immaculate Conception parish and Father Steve Wood of our Maryknoll house in Los Angeles.