Sister Mary Ann Junas, MM

Born: May 25, 1933
Entered: September 6, 1951
Died: February 12, 2007

“When I give up the helm I know that the time has come for thee to take it….

I shall be wise this time and wait in the dark, spreading my mat on the floor; and whenever it is thy pleasure, my Lord, come silently and take thy seat here.”

These lines from the Hindu poet Tagore, used by Sister Mary Ann Junas for prayer and meditation for many years, are poignant for us who gather today to remember her. Mary Ann’s Lord came to her quietly after seven in the evening of February 12, 2007, as many of her friends were keeping vigil with her in Residential Care IV at Maryknoll. These friends and many others have prayed for and admired this valiant woman. Over the last several years Mary Ann was seen “fighting the good fight” of life with an ever cheerful and engaging spirit. She was 73 years of age and had been a Maryknoll Sister for 55 years.

Mary Ann, born on May 25, 1933, in Baltimore, MD, was the second child of Adolph M. Junas and Catherine Burke Junas. She had one brother, names Thomas. Mary Ann entered the Maryknoll Sisters from St. Martin Parish in Baltimore on September 6, 1951, after having graduated from St. Martin’s High School in June of that year. At Reception she received the name Sister Regina Martin. Her First Profession of Vows was made on March 7, 1954, at Maryknoll, NY. Studies at Maryknoll Teachers College were to follow, and she received a Bachelor’s degree in Education in 1958. Sister Mary Ann then taught primary school for nine months at St. Bernard’s in St. Louis prior to her assignment to Chile in 1959 where she made Final Profession of Vows on March 7, 1960.

In Chile, Mary Ann studied Spanish in Pucon and served in education for 16 years, as teacher and/or principal in schools in Talcuahuano and Chillan, as well as teaching catechetics. In 1975 she returned to Maryknoll, NY, to work in promotion for three years. This was a time when the Community was discerning new areas of mission, something that had an impact on Mary Ann. In a letter to Leadership at the time, she wrote that she was not seeking a new mission, as she was happy in Chile and was looking forward to returning there. Nonetheless she wanted them to know that she was “available” should she be needed for a new mission.

Her offer was accepted and in 1979 she, along with two other Maryknoll Sisters, was assigned to begin a new mission in Bangladesh. The Sisters studied Bengali and for eight years Mary Ann worked in a natural family planning project, visiting married couples in the villages around the capital of Dhaka and in the area of Khulna. She found the work rewarding but difficult, due to the cultural attitude of men toward women in general and Sisters in particular. In 1987 she returned to Maryknoll, NY and worked temporarily in medical records of our health unit.

In 1988 Mary Ann was invited to the Hong Kong Region to continue natural family planning work, this time in Macau. She thus began studies of yet another language, Cantonese. She worked on the Marriage Advisory Council, assisted the elderly in the morning and children in the afternoon, and held classes on family planning in the evening.

During her long missionary service in the three distinct cultures and languages of Chile, Bangladesh and China, Mary Ann added skills to her earlier education, earning certificates for a basic unit of Clinical Pastoral Education, as well as for courses on the care of patients with Hansen’s disease and in teaching Natural Family Planning.

Over the years, many have come to know and love Mary Ann, seeing her working happily as office assistant in the Chi Rho Community, and in many other activities around the Center.

We welcome Maryknoll Father Ernest Lukaschek, another Chilean missioner, who will preside at this Memorial Liturgy.