Sister Mary Schafers, MM

Born: July 7, 1904
Entered: October 15, 1926
Died: April 17, 1985

In February 1985, Sister Mary Schafers left New York with the love and best wishes of all at the Center to begin another phase of her life at Monrovia. Amidst the joy and celebration of send-off, Mary knew that her health was failing and she was finding it more difficult to function in the cold weather. But she was at peace as always and excited about the move. She wrote Sisters Anna May Healy and Angela Marie Coveny while there and told them she was very happy and how wonderful it was to renew old friendships and to enjoy the beauty of Monrovia. Her spirits were wonderful and she was interested in everything and everyone as usual.

Mary began feeling more pain in her left leg just before Easter and tests on Good Friday indicated there was a serious problem. Mary had asked to move closer to the Chapel and dining room during this time. As usual, she never wished to burden others and so did not mention her increased difficulty in walking or the pain. She was hospitalized and her condition remained critical until April 17th when we received word that our Sister Mary Schafers died peacefully at Santa Teresita Hospital at 04:00 A.M. Some notes made by Mary before her death indicated that she had been planning and preparing carefully for her going home to God. It also seemed that she was in greater pain than she expressed to anyone. Sister Miriam Carol wrote: “We know only that a few days before she died, Mary asked that she not be given any pain medication she wanted to be conscious and offer her suffering as she had always offered her life.”

Mary Josephine Schafers was born on July 7, 1904 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. She was one of eight children born to Herman and Elizabeth Papa Schafers. Mary entered Maryknoll in October of 1926 and at reception time received the name Sister Mary Scholastica. After Final Profession in 1932, she studied at Maryknoll Teacher Training School and received a teaching certificate.

Her first mission assignment was in 1937 to Fushun, Manchuria, where she did parish work until 1941. Even though her health was not good she contributed much to the community. Her next journey took her to Baguio in the Philippines, where she was interned at Los Banos until the liberation in 1945 during World War II.

After repatriation in 1945, Mary again became a student and received a Bachelor of Education degree from Maryknoll Teachers College. From 1946 until 1947 her mission journey was mostly in the United States as a teacher of elementary grades and superior in St. Louis. She was much loved by the students, Sisters, and friends who worked with her. Her untiring spirit, energy and generosity are still remembered by those who were with her at that time.

In 1966, Mary took over the leadership of the Eastern U.S. Region which eventually included the Mid-West. Her great contribution to the Congregation during this time was of a different nature. Her leadership allowed for personal growth and freedom. Mary had that special gift of making the profound, simple. Her caring and warmth endeared her to all who were associated with her.

Before coming to the Center in 1982, Mary was working with Sisters Anna May Healy and Benigna Foley in an all-black parish in Mississippi – once again vitally involved in the parish and in the lives of the people. She wrote to Sister Joan Berninger just before returning, “I am sorry to leave Mississippi, for I love the people here. I have been working mostly with black people. They have such strong faith and are not afraid to show their love for God. They have been an inspiration for me.” Her time spent at the Center was full and involved. She was a Eucharistic Minister, Minister of the Word; with the Full Circle Women from the beginning, and frequently visiting the sick. It was an enriching time for Mary and for those who knew and loved her. We, the Center Community, sent her off to Monrovia last February with love and affection, hardly knowing this would be her final journey.

In the Office of the Resurrection, the Sisters at Monrovia captured the person who was Mary:

“Rejoice with God dear Sister Mary

You who faced life with courage who made every tomorrow a more welcome day who never knew envy

You who helped everyone, wherever, however and whenever you could who always made allowances for the weakness of others who always looked in the eye of trouble with a smile

You who dedicated your life to Maryknoll in service and in love who had a heart that loved and understood who lived a forward looking outgoing life

You who were always gentle, kind and forgiving who were loved by all whose lives you touched.

Our lives are better and life itself is brighter because of you, Sister Mary.”

The Mass of the Resurrection, in celebration of Mary’s resurrection to new life and in thanksgiving for the gift of her life, was offered in the Maryknoll Convent Chapel, Monrovia, California on April 18, 1985.

The Monrovia community was happy to have Sister Anna May Healy with them through Mary’s last days. Mary’s niece, and her grandnephew, were present at Monrovia for the Eucharistic Liturgy.

Here at the Center, a Memorial Mass was celebrated by Father Vic Schymeinsky of Maryknoll on April 22, 1985; in spirit we joined our Maryknoll Family throughout the world in offering praise and thanksgiving to God for the beautiful gift that was Mary’s life to Maryknoll and to the Church in Mission.