Sister Mary Campion Sauve, MM

Born: March 11, 1915
Entered: July 2, 1940
Died: April 11, 2002

“I would have her distinguished by Christ-like charity, a limpid simplicity of soul, heroic generosity, selflessness,  loyalty, prudent zeal, an orderly mind, gracious courtesy, an adaptable disposition, solid piety, and the saving grace of a sense of humor.”

These words of Mother Mary Joseph come to mind as we gather this morning to remember and celebrate the life of our Sister Mary Campion Sauve, a woman dedicated to mission, graced with hope and trust, and gifted with a “saving grace of a sense of humor.” Sister Campion blessed our lives with her presence among us for sixty-one years as a Maryknoll Sister. Since 1988 she had been a patient in our Residential Care Facility and died peacefully the evening of April 11, 2002 surrounded by Maryknoll Sisters and Residential Care staff who lovingly cared for her throughout the years. Sister was 87 years of age.

Josephine Elizabeth Sauve was born March 11, 1915 in Duluth, Minnesota, the second of three children, to Edmund and Georgina Chevrette Sauve. She grew up in a happy family with her sister and brother, both of whom preceded her in death. Her sister was a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, and her brother was killed in the line of duty during World War II.

Josephine Elizabeth received her early education at St. John the Baptiste Primary and Secondary Schools and, after attending the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth for one year, worked as a Stenographer for the St. Louis County Welfare Board in Duluth before entering Maryknoll on July 2,1940.

At Reception, Josephine Elizabeth received the religious name of Sister Mary Campion, the name she retained throughout her religious life. She made her First Profession of Vows March 7, 1943 at Maryknoll, NY and that same year was assigned to California where she began her missionary journey as a Maryknoll Sister.

Upon her arrival in California, Sister worked for one year at the Maryknoll Fathers Minor Seminary in Los Altos followed by three years of service at the Maryknoll Sisters Sanatorium in Monrovia. She made her Final Profession of Vows in Monrovia March 7, 1946 and in 1947 began what was to be the beginning of many years in pastoral ministry, in Stockton and Guadalupe in California and later in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Sister Campion seemed to have captured Mother Mary Joseph’s description of the ideal Maryknoll Sister from the very beginning of her missionary life. At the time of her Profession, she was described as a woman who “carefully fulfilled her obligations, who was thoughtful, unselfish, kind, simple, eager to give her best, and who possessed a religious sense coupled with a sense of responsibility and a sense of humor.”

In writing about her nineteen years in ministry in the Guadalupe Parish, Sister stated: “I am a missioner who has never been active in the foreign field, but that does not mean to say I have never been on the missions! Far from it!”

Sister Campion realized the Guadalupe parish was very poor financially, but felt it was very rich in the love and regard of the people for the Sisters. In her letters she shared that there were problems involved in setting up the ministry but stated “We do have hope because if we didn’t have hope, there wouldn’t be much point in going on, would there?”

She loved her ministry and the people at Guadalupe parish. Much of her time was dedicated to teaching religion to the local public school children on a release-time basis as well as organizing a recreational program for girls from the 2nd through the 8th grades. She also cooperated with the school nurse in obtaining medical attention for the children, helped provide transportation for clinic trips, and made home visits to encourage improvement in home hygiene. Sister Campion also joined forces with many of the parents to help teach religion to over 900 children at nearby Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Sister was an accomplished pianist and organist and developed a small group of women and high school girls who comprised the Senior Choir and provided the music for the Masses, Confirmation ceremonies, and Weddings. She herself mentioned that the choir was her own “special love”.

In 1963, Sister was asked to return to Maryknoll, New York where her secretarial skills were in demand. For three years she lived at St. Teresa’s Convent while working at the Price Building for the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers and then began seven years of service at the Mail Desk of the Development Department at our Center.

In 1973, Sister Campion returned to her much-loved ministry of pastoral work and catechetics, this time in Corpus Christi, Texas. Her first three years were dedicated to instructing children, teens and adults in St. Joseph’s Parish, and the following nine years were spent at Christ the King Parish, visiting the sick and elderly and conducting religion classes for adults. During this time, she also taught children with learning disabilities. In 1985, she returned to Maryknoll, NY to retire at the age of 70.

Sister Campion is lovingly remembered as an avid baseball fan, a woman who liked to entertain, recite poetry and tell stories but, above all, she is remembered for her “saving grace of a sense of humor.” Even when failing health necessitated her admission into the Residential Care Unit in 1988 she continued to enjoy playing cards, reading and entertaining others as long as this was possible.

In today’s first reading from Timothy we hear him tell us “I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me.” Today these words speak to the life of our Sister Campion and we rejoice with her as she receives the crown of righteousness reserved for her from all eternity.

We extend our deepest sympathy to Sister’s family, all of whom are unable to be with us today and also to our Sisters in the Western United States Region whose Prayer Partner will now be interceding for them from Heaven.

We welcome our Maryknoll brother, Father John Moran, who will preside at this Eucharistic Liturgy of Christian Burial as we join together in thanking God for the life of our Sister Mary Campion.