Sister Marian Pahl, MM

Born: July 30, 1931
Entered: October 14, 1949
Died: December 30, 2011

Sister Marian Pahl’s vocation resounds with the words of Isaiah read by Jesus in the synagogue of Nazareth: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor…to let the oppressed go free.”  The poor shared this good news with Marian in four countries in Latin America.

Sister Marian Pahl died peacefully on December 30, 2011 in Residential Care IV as Sisters at her bedside were singing a Spanish hymn.  We express our gratitude to all the Staff and Sisters who cared so lovingly for her these past four years.

Marian was born on July 30, 1931 in Minneapolis, MN of Dolores Mary (St. Martin) and Herman Peter Pahl, both deceased.  She had two sisters, Mrs. Eileen Somers and Sister Josette Paul, O.P. and three brothers, Brother Cyril F. Pahl, FSC, Brother George Paul, FSC, and Gerard Pahl.

Marian graduated from Annunciation Grade School, Minneapolis and in 2001 received the Annunciation School’s Dominican Award for exemplifying and living the values of the school.  She graduated from the Academy of the Holy Angels, Minneapolis in 1949.  Asked what work she did before coming to Maryknoll, she said, “We always worked on Pop’s truck garden farm, after school, weekends, and summers.”

Marian entered Maryknoll on October 14, 1949 at Valley Park, MO, making her First Profession of Vows on May 8, 1952 at Valley Park and receiving the religious name of Marian Paul and her Final Vows on May 8, 1955 at Maryknoll, NY.

She received a Bachelor of Education degree from Maryknoll Teachers College in 1956 and was assigned to the Middle America Region.  Maryknoll Sisters were establishing a high school in Puerto Armuelles, Panama for the children of the banana plantation employees.  Marian taught there from 1956 to 1966.  It was at this time that Mariana became her “South-of-the Border” name.  She remembered especially the summers spent riding horses on the beach to reach the villages of workers in order to teach catechism to the children.

In 1966, during her visit, the Regional Superior, Sister Mildred Fritz, said she needed Sisters to work in San Antonio Huista, Huehuetenango, Guatemala but the parishioners were difficult to work with.  Mariana remarked, “I’ve always found it easy to work with anyone.”  A few weeks later she was assigned there.

In San Antonio Huista, the pastoral work consisted of adult education, literacy and formation of catechists and Catholic leaders.  Mariana was aware of the extreme poverty and oppression, not only of the indigenous population but also of the Ladinos of Spanish descent.  In 1968 because of the repressive military situation in Guatemala, four Maryknollers, including Sister Mariana, were asked to leave the country.  These missioners had been struggling with their role under a terrorist government.  Sister Mariana returned to the Center where, with integrity and honesty, she communicated her sense of justice guided by her close association with the poor and oppressed and manifested in her personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

After a Renewal period in the States, she accepted as assignment to join Sister Elsie Monge and Laura Glynn in the diocese of Santiago, Veraguas, Panama.  The Sisters worked in the diocesan social office, responsible for writing radio programs and doing adult literacy education in the rural areas, based on Paolo Freire’s philosophy.  The Sisters believed that the farmers (campesinos) were capable of participating and contributing to decisions that affected their lives.  Until 1971, when Father Hector Gallego was killed, neither the bishop nor the clergy expressed opposition to the ideas the Sisters were promoting.  However, in 1973, the bishop asked the Sisters to leave, while extolling their virtues at the same time.  From this experience with the campesinos, Mariana’s life became fully dedicated to the poor.

In 1973, Mariana was assigned to the Mexico-Guatemala Region.  At the invitation of the pastor of San Bartolo, Guanajuato, Mexico, Sisters Mariana and Antoinette Mercuri worked with the campesino poor in Basic Christian Communities and adult education for two years.  After this she worked for a time in literacy education in Mexico City.

From 1976 to 1984, Mariana accepted an assignment with Sisters Mary Ann Duffy and Nancy Donovan in Bachajon, Chiapas, Mexico working with a mixed team of priests and Sisters from nine parishes, all doing pastoral work with the Tzeltal Indians.  Even though she needed to master the Tzeltal language, she considered this one of the most satisfying times of her life because of working together as a true team.  Part of this ministry was to visit the camps of Guatemalan refugees to see the living conditions, the hunger needs and repression by both the Mexican and invading Guatemala army.

While living in Chiapas, Mariana was on the Regional Governing Board of the Mexico-Guatemala Region from 1981-1984 during turbulent years in Guatemala.  They met monthly in Huehuetenango and this required a long trip by bus with frequent army checks.

After attending the General Assembly in 1984 as a delegate from Mexico-Guatemala, she returned to the Center for Promotion and Mission Education for four years on the East Coast.  In her last year she resided at Newburgh, NY with the Orientation Community, commuting daily to the Center.

In 1988, desiring to live with the poorest, she requested a transfer to the Nicaragua Region, the poorest of the Central American countries.  She worked in community pastoral service: home visiting, especially with the elderly poor, and assisting in projects for Third Age people.  In 2006, she returned to the Center and transferred to the Eden Community in 2007.

When asked in an interview which of all the characteristics listed by Mother Mary Joseph for her Maryknoll Sisters did she most identify as hers, she spontaneously replied, “SELFLESSNESS.”

We are happy to have our Maryknoll brother, Father Paul Belliveau, who will preside at of Liturgy of Christian Burial.