Sister Marilyn Earley, MM

Born: February 28, 1900
Entered: July 1, 1931
Died: August 16, 1982

The Angel of Death found a ready, willing soul in the person of Sister Marilyn Earley, who went forth to meet the Lord she loved so much on Monday, August 16th, 1982 – the hour was 6:40 p.m.

Early Monday evening Sister had gone, as usual, to the dining room for supper, and had made plans to play cards immediately afterwards. Later, however, she told the group that she felt somewhat tired and, perhaps, it would be best if she went to bed early. Sister Eleanor Keeney had gone to Sister’s room, got her nicely tucked in, and then went for a bell “just in case” of need during the night; when she returned, Sister Marilyn had already “passed over” into Eternity. She died as unassumingly as she had lived: quietly, with dignity, with no trouble for any one.

Catherine Earley was born February 28, 1900 in Wilmington, Delaware, to Thomas and Mary McCloskey Earley – the only girl in the family of four boys. Catherine attended grade and commercial high school in Wilmington; and upon completion of these studies, she went to work in a business office where she was employed for 12 years before entering Maryknoll on July 1, 1931. In her first letter to Mother Mary Joseph, she wrote: “I know you must think me terribly ancient, Mother, but I assure you I feel twenty instead of thirty… and I am willing to serve in any branch of your order that would please you to place me” – a spirit she was to maintain beautifully throughout her life in mission in Maryknoll. Members of Sister Marilyn’s group, who have been in residence with her these past years at Monrovia, recall that there were “twelve postulants in the 1931 group, and so eager were they to win the world for Christ that Mother Mary Joseph called them “The Twelve Apostles.” Sister Marilyn never lost this early zeal and her group relates that “she was like a happy troubadour as she fulfilled the many assignments given to her.”

Sister Marilyn made her first vows on January 6, 1934 and pronounced her final vows three years later on January 6, 1937 in Honolulu where she had been assigned the year before (1936). Sister’s ministry in Hawaii included teaching and administrative work over a period of almost 20 years. She was in Kalihi Kai two years, and then Maui Children’s Home from 1938 to 1955. Sister Marilyn enjoyed a marvelous rapport with the children and they, in turn, loved and trusted her. This relationship was evident still even in these latter years as observed by her Sister companions in Monrovia; they tell us that “Sister dearly loved babies and children. Should you have been out with Sister Marilyn and she disappeared from your side, no need to panic, just look for the nearest baby and there you would find Sister billing and cooing and making proud parents even happier!” In 1955, Sister Marilyn returned to Maryknoll, NY to begin a six-year term as Superior of Bethany Convent; and from 1961 to 1967 she ministered to the needs of the Community and work of Rosary Convent in Chicago, Illinois. In 1968 Sister Marilyn was assigned to Monrovia, where she spent the remaining years of her life – a lovable, comfortable companion to all around her. For anyone of us who knew Sister Marilyn either for longer or shorter periods, it is easy to identify with the reflections of her Monrovia community in appreciation of, and gratitude to God for the very special person she was: “Sister was dearly loved by all of us here, and she loved Monrovia… She possessed a rare combination of virtues: a sustained happy and cheerful spirit, kindness and warmth, gentleness, interest in others, generosity and unfailing cooperation… She invariably maintained a positive attitude. She was a quiet person, and her countless acts of charity were done unobtrusively for God alone.” Sister Marilyn also loved music, and we are told that around 4 o’clock on the day she died, she had sat with others listening to recordings familiar and dear to her; when an Irish record was played, Sister got up and started to “step out – her Irish heritage and nimble feet wouldn’t let her resist!”

The Mass of the Resurrection, in celebration and in thanksgiving for the gift of Sister Marilyn’s life was offered by Maryknoll Father Howard C. Geselbracht in the Maryknoll Convent Chapel, Monrovia, California on Thursday, August 19th, 1982 – “everything was simple, the way Sister would have wished.” Burial followed in Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Rowland Hills, California.

Here at the Center, a Memorial Mass was celebrated by Father Robert E. Sheridan, M.M., on August 20th, 1982; in spirit, we joined our Maryknoll Family throughout the world in offering our praise and thanksgiving to God for the beautiful gift that was Sister Marilyn’s life to Maryknoll and to the Church in mission.

“Well done, good and faithful daughter… come…!”