Sister Marie Bernadette Lynch, MM

Born: February 11, 1936
Entered: September 2, 1959
Died: August 6, 2023

We gather to celebrate the life and call of our Sister Marie Bernadette Lynch, who surrendered fully to our loving God, on August 6, 2023, at the Maryknoll Sisters Center. Marie was 87 years old and a Maryknoll Sister for 64 years. August 6th, the Feast of the Transfiguration was a joyful day for Marie, which she expressed fully through her participation in the choir, during the morning liturgy, a game of Bingo with the Eden Sisters, and a toast to the Aides from Jamaica on their Independence Day. It was a joy, which came to fulfillment as she also experienced the depth of the Transfiguration in her own life.

Marie was born on February 11, 1936, in Roxbury Massachusetts. She was the daughter of Catherine Norton Lynch and Edward Lynch. She had one sister, Aileen, and three brothers: Edward, Joseph, and Thomas. Her parents, sister Aileen, and her brother Joseph have predeceased her.

Marie attended Sacred Heart High School, graduating in 1953. She then attended Regis College in Weston, Massachusetts from 1953 to 1957, obtaining a BA in Child Psychology and a Minor in Education. Following graduation, she joined the Lay Apostolate from Regis College, teaching in both St. Anne’s Elementary School in Rockhill, South Carolina, and later St. Vincent de Paul Elementary School in Ohio. It was during this time that her call to the Maryknoll Sisters was confirmed.

Marie entered the Maryknoll Sisters on September 2, 1959, from the parish of Sacred Heart in Boston, Massachusetts. She made her First Vows on June 24, 1962 in Topsfield, Massachusetts and her Final Vows on June 24, 1968, in Bolivia. At her reception, Marie received the religious name of Sister Miriam Bernard, returning to her legal name after Vatican II. During this time at Maryknoll, Marie attended Maryknoll Teachers College for one year, completing her degree in Education.

Marie was assigned to the Bolivia/Peru Region in 1963. Her first mission was to the Parish of Santa Rosa in Lima, the first parish school in the country. She remained there until 1966, when she was temporarily assigned as principal to a school in Guayaramerin, Bolivia for one year. She then returned to Santa Rosa in Lima remaining there until 1970. Marie’s joyous spirit, her contagious laugh, and her capacity to form friendships left an indelible mark on the people of Santa Rosa, with whom she maintained contact throughout her life.

Following renewal, she was then assigned to the Parish of Huancane, in the Prelature of Juli in the Department of Puno. Here she served in both teaching and pastoral ministry from 1971 to 1978, while at the same time serving as a member of the Regional Governing Board. In 1977, she was named the Peru Delegate to the Inter Assembly Conference at Maryknoll, New York, and later as a member of the General Assembly Task Force.

Following the General Assembly, Marie was appointed as Director of the Central Orientation Team from 1979 to 1983.  Marie’s authenticity and honesty; her capacity for deep listening; her intuitive presence to others and their suffering; and her gift to offer challenging questions to enable deeper discernment, while affirming new insights were important gifts, which she brought to this ministry. During these years, she studied at the Maryknoll School of Theology from 1979 to 1984, gaining a MA in Theological Studies. She also took courses in Spiritual Direction and Counseling Techniques.

Generous with her talents, Marie was always open to responding to the challenge of new initiatives. In 1985, she returned to Peru, where she was invited to join a new initiative with other Maryknoll Sisters, in Pastoral Ministry, in a marginal parish on the outskirts of the city of Tacna. Along with her community, Marie’s capacity to enter fully into the Peruvian culture, her theological background, and her efforts to encourage lay leadership strengthened the foundation of this emerging Christian community. She remained in this parish until 1994.

Throughout her life, Marie has remained very close to her family. In 1995, as both parents began to suffer from diminishing health, Marie felt called to family ministry. She saw this moment as sacred and accompanied her father and later, her mother until she died in 2004. At this time, she also collaborated with the local parish, offering her gift of music as an organist and participant in the choir.

From 2005 to 2017, Marie again returned to Tacna, this time to collaborate with a Diocesan Team in the development of a new program for the Formation and Religious Education of Laity. This was a very meaningful experience for Marie because it fostered a true ecclesial team, composed of lay people, a priest, and a sister, all involved in its planning and organization. As the laity grew in responsibility and leadership, Marie took on a collaborative role, contributing her suggestions and insights as well as offering courses on the Bible. In 2010, Marie participated in the National Assembly of the Conference of Religious in Peru, where she became aware of the growing problem of Human Trafficking throughout the world. United with others, she supported the creation of a permanent commission, the “Network of Life.” Returning to Tacna, Marie promoted this network and encouraged participation to educate and prevent Human Trafficking in the country.

As her health began to decline, Marie decided to return to the United States.  In a reflection to the region, Marie underlined the importance for her, of “Mission as a Total Way of Life” and her openness “to respond to the opportunities and needs that emerge in the future.”  This led her to join the staff of the Mission Institute, as Hospitality Coordinator, from 2017 to 2021. She often prepared Prayer Services for the participants, focusing on music that would lead others into a sense of stillness and of God’s presence within a busy world. For Marie, the importance of music was the gold thread, woven throughout her life.

As Marie’s eyesight began to diminish, music took on greater meaning. Aldous Huxley, an English Writer, once wrote, “After silence, that which comes closest in expressing the inexpressible is Music.” These words reflect the depth of music in her life. It was to music that Marie often turned for comfort and accompaniment as she was led deeper within.

As we begin the celebration of the liturgy this morning, I would like to share Marie’s words of gratitude for the Peruvian People and the Maryknoll Sisters she had known throughout the years.  These are words that she put to the music of Leonard Cohen.

“Treasure all Memories, right from the start
Carry them always – we are never apart
One in God, always deep in my heart
And so let Love carry it along
Let us bring it all to the Lord of Song
With nothing on our tongues but Hallelujah.”