Sister Mary Wesig, MM

Born: October 21, 1921
Entered: December 8, 1939
Died: May 2, 2002

Sister Mary Wesig, who never tired of teaching the children and who longed to stay with them in the beautiful islands of Hawaii, came home here to the Center last December because of failing health.

Sister Mary died at Phelps Memorial Hospital, Sleepy Hollow, New York just before 4 P.M. on Thursday, May 2, 2002, having given herself over to the Will of God one more time. Sister Mary was 80 years old and a Maryknoll Sister for 63 years.

Mary was born October 21, 1921 in Akron, Ohio, one of eight children, six boys and two girls to Cassie (Skladal) and Karl Wesig.

Mary graduated from Sacred Heart Academy in Akron in 1939 and entered Maryknoll that same year. After the initial years of formation here at Maryknoll she was assigned to administrative work at the Center and at the offices of the Maryknoll Magazine. Her first assignment away from the Center was to Stockton, California in 1947 where she, along with a group of other Maryknoll Sisters, helped in the development of a catechetical program which covered ten large parishes where they trained religious education teachers. She was involved in this work for six years and it would give her a long lasting enthusiasm for the religious formation of young people.

Her next assignment, following studies at Mary Rogers College, brought her to the Pacific Islands where she taught grade and junior high school for more than 20 years. From 1961 – 1964 she served at Maryknoll Sisters’ Schools in Likiep and Majuro Islands. From there she was assigned to Maryknoll School in Honolulu teaching in the grade school for six years.

Her love of teaching inspired her to ask to go on for graduate studies in theology and in 1973 she succeeded in earning a Master’s Degree in Theology from the University of San Francisco. These were post Vatican II years and not an easy time to be in religious education as there were many struggles among the old and the new thinking, and not all the teachers, parents, students were changing at the same pace. It was an exciting but a very challenging time to be in Mission in formal education.

It was at this time, around 1976, that Sister Mary requested permission to return to her home in Ohio to care for her father. During this time Mary was encouraged to do some Congregational Service which she did – in the Social Concerns Office and in the Office of the Administrator of the Nursing Home. She was making this contribution while being relatively close to her father who passed away in November of 1980. Following his death it was time to return to Hawaii, back to what she truly loved best, teaching.

Upon Sister Mary’s return to Honolulu and Maryknoll Grade School in 1982, Mary began an after school program in which she could continue her ministry to the children and to their parents. She created an after school curriculum for kindergarten through eighth grade that three years later won awards from the Catholic School Department of Hawaii.

From 1993 to 2001 she was a special tutor and mentor to students at St. Francis High School for Girls. Many of the international students were receiving formal TESOL education but needed that extra, caring help which Sister Mary gave. For her it amounted to teaching the religion and English classes a second time.

Besides her love of teaching what were Sister Mary’s other gifts to the Community? She was a great candy maker. She made more fudge and marshmallow divinity than could be recorded. She was the “Official Packer and Shipper” for the Sisters in Micronesia beginning in 1964 and continuing intermittently until she was not able to continue. Her three years of service there made her alert to needs beyond what they had specifically requested. When they opened her carefully packed shipments remarkable surprises appeared, items which she had gleaned from various sources, plus the most welcome chocolate fudge packed in unsalted popcorn to keep it fresh.

Sister Mary’s long career in elementary education gave her contact with many families. Some of her last visits were with great-grandparents of children now enrolled in Maryknoll school, contacts she had kept over these generations.

Leaving Hawaii was one of the most difficult things she had done, but when it was clear that God’s Will for her was to live at our Center and care for her health, she agreed to a transfer of Regions. Her assignment to the Center Main Community was effective on May 1st but Sister Mary never learned of this. Her heart never left the Central Pacific Region.

As Community here at the Center we are touched by the fact that members of her family had been here for a visit in the past week ends. That is such a gift that so many of us would envy. At this special Eucharist today celebrating Sister Mary’s life we again extend a warm welcome to Sister Mary’s family. We extend our deepest sympathy to you and also to members of your family who could not be present today.

We welcome Father Robert Lloyd as our celebrant for this Mass of Christian Burial, thanking God for the gift of Sister Mary Wesig’s life.