Wake Reflection for Sister Joseph Mark Hayden, OSU
“I say good-bye to all of you. I hope this will not be the end but only the beginning when I can see all of you along with our guardian angels and our God. So good-bye for now. More and better, a little later.” These child-like, yet profound, words were penned by Sister Joseph Mark on September 15, 1999, on the form used for her personal funeral arrangements.
In the name of the community, the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, I offer love and sympathy to family and friends of Sister Joseph Mark, especially to her brother Albert, and to you, Mildred, niece of Sister Joseph Mark We have seen your devotion to your aunt through the years and have been touched by that. To Sister Mary Clement, who has shared jubilees in religious life with Sister Joseph Mark for 76 years, I offer loving sympathy. To the staff in health care and pastoral care, I extend expressions of sincere gratitude for your graciousness in caring for our Sister. To Sister Diane Marie, we also offer our gratitude for your goodness to her.
Sister Joseph Mark was born Mildred Catherine, the daughter of John Joseph and Alice Beatrice Cash Courtney Hayden, on May 17,1909 in the town of Fancy Farm in Graves County, Kentucky. Mildred Catherine was one of 11 children. In reading of Mildred Catherine’s early years, we find that six of her siblings died at birth. The eleventh child who was born in 1920 on Mildred’s birthday of May 17 died as did her mother. The memory of her mother and the little infant buried in the same casket remained a tender memory for Mildred all her life. Mildred’s father remarried five years later.
Early childhood education in the first four grades for Mildred was spent in a public school. When a school and convent was built at St. Denis in Hickman County, education was continued with the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph. Secondary education was received at Mount Saint Joseph Academy. “It was nothing that Sister Nazaria said that prompted my desire to become an Ursuline,” Mildred wrote, “but mostly what she didn’t say. I left home in 1926.”
On May 13,1926, Mildred Catherine Hayden entered the postulancy program of the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph. During Mildred’s postulancy year, her father was shot and killed on the church grounds of Saint Denis right after Mass. In her memoirs she recalls: “My father looked the man in the eye and said: `You have killed me, but I forgive you.’ My father also asked the priest, Father Lawrence Durbin, to repeat to the man that he forgave him. All my brothers and sisters witnessed the shooting. It only took my father a few seconds to forgive his murderer and it is taking me years but I’m still trying to forgive.”
On March 19,1927, Mildred received the name of Sister Joseph Mark. She professed temporary vows on March 19, 1929, and professed perpetual vows on March 19, 1932.
Sister Joseph Mark’s ministry of education and Christian formation took her to schools throughout the diocese of Owensboro, the archdiocese of Louisville, and to Saint Joseph
School in San Fidel, New Mexico. Sister Joseph Mark writes: “After having been in the classroom for fifty-two years teaching every grade from kindergarten through twelfth grade, I thought it time that I leave. So in 1977, I began volunteer ministry at Saint Boniface Retirement Center in Louisville. Even that consisted of some teaching. Foreigners were coming to the United States by the boatload and needed to know the basics. The Vietnamese were first, then an immigrant from Poland, one from China, and a Cuban refugee. I spent two days a week working at City Hall at the invitation of Harvey Sloan. I had worked in his campaign. I also worked on the campaign of Ron Mazzoli, who was a student of some of our Ursuline Sisters. At the invitation of the chaplain of the jail, I was asked to become a jail visitor. That invitation took me to three other jails. Besides all of that, I was asked to do some work at Humana Hospital. Even Red Cross got me slightly involved.”
In 1979 Sister Joseph Mark underwent surgery for the removal of a brain tumor. After a period of recuperation at the motherhouse, she returned to Saint Boniface to continue her various ministries of outreach. The archival file of Sister Joseph Mark is an archivist’s dream for it is at least two inches thick. Among the many interesting pages, there are numerous certificates of achievement, accounts of activities and travels, letters from Louisville Mayor Harvey Sloan and House of Representatives Ron Mazzoli, letters written by Sister Joseph Mark to editors of newspapers, a hand-written, eye-witness account of the 1937 flood while Sister Joseph Mark was living on West Market Street at Saint Columba School in Louisville, the stamped envelope and original letter from Mother Agnes welcoming Mildred Hayden to postulancy, and much, much more.
In 1986 Sister Joseph Mark retired to the Motherhouse. In writing of her sunset years she says: “These times are similar to novitiate days in that we have more time for prayer and little acts of charity. A lot of time is spent with doctors, but they and our nurses help us over the rough spots. I am a resting patient here at our motherhouse and well cared for. I expect to remain here until the Lord calls me to my real home. I look forward to hearing him say:
“You have fought the good fight Come now to your real home.”
On Friday, July 25, 2003, from a hospital bed in Owensboro Mercy Health Center, God invited our Sister Joseph Mark Hayden to come to her real home.
Sister Joseph Mark, your life has been astounding. In hope and confidence, we agree with you: “Good-bye for now…more and better, later!” You, like so many in our Ursuline communion of saints, help us understand a little more of the tenderness and mercy of a loving God!
Sister Rose Marita
Congregational Leader 2000-2003