Sister Mary Celestine Naes, MM

Born: January 10, 1907
Entered: June 6, 1925
Died: April 17, 1979

We come together today to celebrate in the Eucharist the new life of our Sister Mary Celestine Naes.

The Scripture readings during these days of Easter week are filled with the joy and fulfillment that burst forth from the disciples’ experience of the resurrection of Jesus. We share in that experience, as surely as the first disciples. These readings complete those of last week which told of pain, misunderstanding, darkened faith.

Paul expressed it in this way, “All I want is to know Christ and experience the power of his Resurrection; to share in his sufferings and become like him in his death, in the hope that I, myself, will be raised from death to life.” (Philippians)

These words speak the heart of the Paschal Mystery. I think that the life of Sister Celestine can, perhaps, be most clearly understood in the light of this direct, even stark, articulation of Christian life.

Sister Celestine became acutely ill on April 4th, had surgery that night, and died without having regained consciousness on Tuesday, April 17, at Phelps Memorial Hospital. Sister had come to Bethany from Monrovia several years ago and, in November, moved to the nursing home. She had been up and about, able to participate in the activities there.

Leona Catherine Naes was born on January 10, 1907, in St. Louis, Missouri, one of nine children. She entered Maryknoll on June 6, 1925, and at reception, received the name, Sister Mary Celestine. She was professed in 1927.

Sister was assigned to Hawaii in 1937, and spent most of her years in mission there, serving through teaching and library work, both of which she really liked, and at which she was very competent.

Once, after an absence from the region for study, Sister Celestine wrote, “I am looking forward to working again among the people I love. And it is a privilege that I treasure. Each day I ask God to make me stronger spiritually and physically, and cooperate the best I know how.” This was her response to that call to mission which led us all to Maryknoll.

Sister also taught for a few years in her native city, St.Louis, and helped organize libraries in Manila, at our novitiates, and at the Center.

Sister Celestine would be most frequently described as a quiet, very serious, thoughtful and considerate woman, one to whom almost everything seemed important. She was gifted with artistic talent and deep sensitivity.  As we saw her those last days and recalled the description of the Suffering Servant, so we celebrate with her now, in the glory of Easter and we touch again the message and mystery of God’s love-eternal, unconditional, revealed in Jesus. This is His promise, and our firm hope. “Let us be glad and rejoice.”

To Sister Celestine’s family, her brothers, her sisters, we offer our sympathy, our prayer, and our gratitude for having shared their sister with us.