Joining the Ursulines was hard on her close-knit family.
“When I drove out of the driveway, my dad thought he’d never see me again. That was the experience he had with sisters,” she said. “They tried to talk me out of it. They said this community won’t last.”
She had worked briefly in a nursing home, and vowed she would never have her parents live in one. “I said, ‘Lord, I’m doing what you want, but you’ve got to take care of my parents so they don’t go to a nursing home,’” she said. “He put me back in with them so I could take care of them. I’m grateful for the job I have here.”
Her father bought the house in Millstadt where she lives 14 years ago and rented it. The family moved there three years ago, then her dad died a year later, in 2007.
During her postulant year in 1980, Sister Marilyn taught second grade at Holy Childhood of Jesus School in Mascoutah, Ill., where Ursulines had taught for many years.
“It was the best year I ever had,” she said. “They were the most exceptional group of kids I ever had.”
Sister Marilyn replaced Sister Mary Ellen Backes in Mascoutah, who left to get her master’s degree in theology. “I don’t think I would have gone to graduate school if she hadn’t been there to take my place in Mascoutah, I would have felt too guilty to leave,” Sister Mary Ellen said. “Marilyn is a hard worker, very conscientious. She has such a gift for teaching.”
Sister Marilyn had her novice year at the motherhouse, then went to Our Lady Queen of Peace in Belleville, where she taught fifth- to eighth-grade religion, played music for the church, and prepared children for the sacraments.
In 1985, she wanted to do retreat work, and spent a year at King’s House in Belleville, run by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. In 1986 she became a pastoral associate at St. George Parish in New Baden, Ill., but in 1988 she wanted to get back in the classroom.
The principal knew me at Holy Childhood of Jesus in Mascoutah,” she said. “I taught junior high social studies and math. After one year, they asked me to take second grade,” she said. “I’ve taught kindergarten to senior citizens, and I can’t say there was a year I didn’t like. I love to teach.”
Walking with Angela
When she has free time, Sister Marilyn likes to walk, do yoga, quilt, embroider, and crochet. “I like to read, especially biographies or some spiritual books.”
The last few years have brought new challenges, with both the loss of the community she joined and her father.
“The merger was painful. It wouldn’t have been as easy for me if not for Sister Michele (Morek, congregational leader),” Sister Marilyn said. “She was the right person at the right time. They say leaders get elected to accomplish certain things. Someone told me Michele was elected to handle the mergers.” In 2008, the Ursuline Sisters of Paola, Kan., became the second community to merge with Mount Saint Joseph.
Sister Marilyn continues to look to the lessons of Ursuline founder Saint Angela Merici to ease her path.
“Angela saw things differently,” Sister Marilyn said. “Angela didn’t look at male/female, widow or single. She looked at people as people — where they are, what’s the best way for them.”
By Dan Heckel