Sister Marilyn Snediker, MM

Born: April 23, 1929
Entered: October 18, 1964
Died: April 25, 2023

Sister Marilyn Snediker had been a resident of the MK Sisters’ Eden Community since 2009 and died there peacefully on the morning of April 25, 2023. She died 2 days after her 94th birthday, which she celebrated happily, asking only for a hamburger! She had been a Maryknoll Sister for 59 years.

Sister Marilyn Snediker was born on April 23, 1929, into a devout Anglican family in Kankakee, IL in 1929 to Mary Shrake Snediker and Oliver R. Snediker. Her parents and only brother Ted R. Snediker pre-deceased her. During her early years, her parents strove to prevent the effects of the depression marking Marilyn and her brother. The family moved from place to place where jobs were available. Her high school years were spent moving from Wyoming to Nebraska, Oklahoma and Indiana.

In 1951 she earned her nursing degree from Mount Carmel Hospital in Columbus, Ohio where she met Maryknoll Sisters Carol Hassey, director of nursing education, and Maria Rieckelman who was completing her medical degree.

In 1953, Marilyn entered the Order of Saint Helena’s, an Anglican religious order in Newburgh, NY, where she gave retreats and parish talks, worked in the formation of novices, and did art work and sewing. She later became head nurse at Saint Luke’s Hospital in New York City followed by some years in Tanzania. As far as we can ascertain, Marilyn and the Maryknoll Sisters did not know each other in Tanzania. She remained in the Order of St. Helena’s until 1964.

On August 1, 1964, back in the United States, Marilyn wrote to “mother”, Sister Elizabeth Marguerite of the Order of Saint Helena:

“So far, my return to a temperate climate and the opportunity to talk this out with Sister Alice has just reinforced my conviction that God is definitely leading me to the Roman Catholic Church… For my release, a separate chapter will probably be held in mid or late September… I would like now to make my request to enter Maryknoll official… I’m not assuming that I will be allowed to enter Maryknoll, but I hope so with all my heart…”

While gathering material for Marilyn’s biography we have searched for the link that drew Marilyn to Maryknoll from the Order of Saint Helena. Perhaps it was having known Carol Hassey and Maria Rieckelman in Ohio???? We may never know.

Anticipating her arrival in St Louis to begin her novitiate at Valley Park, Marilyn mentions that some of her sisters from the Order of Saint Helena would be in Saint Louis for the general convention of the Episcopal Church. “Seeing me then would be difficult for them though they have been so generous and understanding… they even expressed the hope that my dispensation from the Order of Saint Helena would coincide with my entrance into Maryknoll. I am deeply grateful to them for so much.”

Marilyn entered the Maryknoll novitiate on October 18, 1964 in Valley Park, MO. She professed her first vows in June 1967 at the Maryknoll Sisters Center. In 1968, she studied at the Maryknoll Teacher’s College at Maryknoll, NY followed by a course in midwifery in London, England and courses at the Maryknoll Seminary. She was then assigned to Tanzania where she made her final vows in October 1970.

Returning to Tanzania, now as a Maryknoll Sister, she lived in Tarime from 1968 to 1972. Marilyn was managing a rural dispensary and teaching preventative health to the clinic staff. She also taught English as a second language and biology in the diocesan junior seminary.

From 1972 to 1986, Marilyn’s many talents were called upon as she served in Congregational Health Services, in the Rogers library, as secretary to the administrator of the nursing home, in the research and planning office, and as administrator of the Office of Social Concerns.

In 1987 Marilyn received her assignment to Guatemala. After studying Spanish in Cochabamba, Bolivia, she served in the jungles of Peten, and later on the margins of the city of Guatemala from 1987 to 1998 in the promotion of women.

In the many faceted women’s formation program in rural Peten, Guatemala, Marilyn used her gifts in an elegant gentle way.  Her midwifery skills and artistic talent shone in her courses with women. Her marvelous set of illustrations showing the development of the baby in the womb captivated the mothers. And she began each time with a reflection on Psalm 139: “Oh God, you know me, my going out and my coming in; even my bones were known to you when I was being formed in my mother’s womb.”

Marilyn returned to the center at Maryknoll in 1998. She first worked in the Global Concerns office and then served as a volunteer in the Computer Room and other areas of the center.

In 2007, Marilyn sustained a stroke while at the dentist. “I remember my doctor saying I’d had a stroke. I heard and understood. The realization sank in with its implications and I found myself wondering “why am I not afraid? There was a sense of being held for which I thank God and the prayers of my family and friends…”

Marilyn then retired to the Eden Community.  During her fourteen years as a member of the Eden community Marilyn suffered from the limitations caused by the stroke, but maintained her sociable and personable disposition. She enjoyed visits from others as well as social gatherings for birthdays, jubilees and holidays. Her television was always tuned into the news. She expressed to a friend, she had become painfully aware of how little she knew about critical situations in the world when our sisters were killed in El Salvador and she did not understand. By being informed of world tensions “I can’t be there, but I can pray”.

Despite her own suffering, Marilyn always asked visitors about their lives, their health and families.