Sister Mary Dolores Cruise, MM

Born: October 8, 1881
Entered: January 31, 1916
Died: November 28, 1950

“Thou hast not spared thy life by reason of the distress and tribulation of thy people, but hast prevented our ruin in the presence of our God…” – Book of Judith, Epistle in the Mass of Our Lady’s Seven Dolors.

Sister Mary Dolores was born in East Weymouth, Massachusetts, and came to Maryknoll in 1916. She was among the first twenty Teresians and was in the first Profession Group of Maryknoll sisters in 1921. Our priests and Brothers of those early years still remember her at work in the seminary kitchen and in the laundry at the old Rosary House, and, in fact, as they say, where ever there was hard work to be done. She was assigned to Kowloon in 1922. The next year she was at Yeungkong with the Old Folks and the Blind. At Yeungkong she taught the blind to make fishing nets. This was tedious work, real drudgery. She had to learn first herself, picking up the knack of lacing the thread and making the knots and then, literally she had to teach the fingers of the blind to follow her, step by step. There was little consolation in this work, and nothing in the way of encouragement, but she did it. Her patience has been blessed, for this home industry of net-making has been the support of those poor blind folk to this very day.

In 1925, when anti-foreignism swept over China, she had to leave Yeungkong with the others and go back to Kowloon, thereby beginning to carry what has been one of the hardest crosses of our missioners in the East – breaking ties and leaving the needy ones when forced to go elsewhere and then begin all over again wherever a door might be opened for them. She went to Loting and was there until marching armies and hostile trouble-makers again forced her and her companions to flee.

She spent some years at St. Paul’s Hospital in manila, edifying everyone with her constant industry, never losing a moment, working, sewing, praying, always about her Father’s business. In 1930 she was back in Hongkong to take charge of a group of Native aspirants to the Sisterhood whom Bishop Ford had sent from the Hakka country. She accompanied them back to Kaying in 1933 to continue their novitiate training there.

It was in 1935, while still in Kaying, that Sister fell. After this fall she was moved to Manila, Los Angeles, and finally the Motherhouse. While she talked about many things, and had a delightful sense of humor, she did not talk about herself. There was a little note found yesterday in her office book: “It doesn’t matter what happens to us, but how we take it.”

In 1939, Sister was well enough to go back to Los Angeles where she continued her sewing and devoted herself to the care of the children. To them she gave all the care and love of a big sister and mother. She formed their hearts and taught their hands, listened to their woes, dried their tears, and made them love the things that count.

During these last weeks in the Infirmary of the Motherhouse, she loved to talk about Heaven. Her view on life grew clearer and clearer, and the perspective she had acquired over long years of hard work and suffering and union with God, showed her what was important and what was negligible. “After all, Sister,” she would say to those caring for her in the Infirmary, “it’s love that counts; nothing else.” And when she talked of Heaven, the Sisters would bring her the substance of what they, too, had read on God’s personal attention to us, His loving interest in each of us individually, His waiting for our attention. “Isn’t it all wonderful,” she would say, “Our Lord – Heaven – Our Blessed Mother – all that lies ahead!” Looking back over the years since the early days here at Maryknoll and the first years with Maryknollers in China, we feel the meaning of those words taken from the Epistle of the Mass on her own Feast Day: “Thou hast not spared thy life by reason of the distress and tribulation of thy people…”

Sister Mary Dolores has left us to join Maryknollers in Heaven. When we hear the choir bid her godspeed with the chant, “In Paradisum deducant te angeli…” we will surely feel how true it is, how real. Sister Mary Dolores, with her beautiful devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows, and her own faithful imitation in gentleness, patience, love, and hope, points out for us that Blessed Sorrowful Mother and indicates a lesson for ourselves, a lesson that we can and should pass on to everyone.

Let us look up always, look up with Sr. Mary Dolores who could smile till her last breath and say that it does not matter so much what happens to us – but how we take it.

“Thou has not spared thy life by reason of the distress and tribulation of thy people, but hast prevented our ruin in the presence of our God…”