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Sister Mary (Mary Agatha) Carlton

Sister Mary Carlton

“ … Jesus went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed, for God was with him.” (Acts 10:38)

“How much like Jesus’ life was that of Sister Mary Carlton! She who was a very private person probably would be distressed to hear herself compared to her Lord. But, like him, she lived a simple, laborious life, first among God’s little ones and then with the poor, marginalized, the ‘oppressed’ of our society. She, like Jesus, went about doing good and healing with her gentle smile and generous helping hands the oppressed whom God placed in her path,” said Sister Mary Roger Madden in her commentary for Sister Mary Carlton, who died Feb. 22.

Florence Carlton was one of five children born to Albert and Mary (Costello) Carlton. She entered this world June 6, 1926, in Chelsea, Mass. Her primary and secondary years of school were spent at St. Rose, Chelsea. She entered the Congregation Feb. 11, 1948, receiving the religious name Sister Mary Agatha, and professed first and perpetual vows Aug. 15, 1950, and 1955, respectively. Sister Mary earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a master’s degree in education administration from Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Ill.

Sister Mary began ministering in elementary education in 1950 at Assumption, Evansville, Ind. In Indianapolis, she taught at St. Catherine and St. James. She spent four years at St. Ambrose, Hollywood, Calif. She taught six years at St. David, Chicago, before serving as a principal at St. Agnes, Chicago. During the 1970s, her ministry focus changed. She served as a pastoral associate at St. Gall Parish, Chicago, and ministered with Catholic Charities, Waukegan, Ill.

In 1980, she returned to education as a principal at Holy Angels School, Sturgis, Mich. Her ministries during the rest of this decade included teaching at St. Patrick, Stoneham, Mass.; St. Malachy, Brownsburg, Ind.; and adult education at Wayne Township, Indianapolis. “After a well deserved sabbatical at Notre Dame University in 1989, Sister Mary returned to Boston for six months to care for her dying mother. After that time, she served three more years as a pastoral associate, this time at St. Joseph Parish, Lebanon, Ind. Sister Mary’s last full-time mission was three years as an employment training specialist for Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana. Goodwill had a job training program that was organized to prepare people who were physically unable, mentally challenged or learning impaired to take their place in society. Sister Mary not only scouted suitable jobs for them, but she also went along with them to the job, working side by side with them until they had mastered the skills needed,” continued Sister Mary Roger.

“In what passes as retirement for a Sister of Providence, Sister Mary volunteered to work with Sister Pat Linehan to make Saint Ann Clinic in Terre Haute the reality it is today. Officially Sister Mary was the volunteer coordinator and in that position interviewed volunteers and supervised their orientation. In addition, according to Sister Pat, Sister Mary assisted with the taking in and labeling of medications, restocking examination rooms, picking up supplies, cleaning the clinic and doing fund raisers. Sister Pat attributes their many returning clients to Sister Mary’s influence. Ever the gracious and generous woman, she did indeed ‘heal the oppressed,’” shared Sister Mary Roger.

“Over the last five years, Sister Mary gradually slipped deeper and deeper into that tranquil place where God alone speaks to the heart. Although in a sense she drifted away from us, we continued to be witnesses, to a greater or lesser degree, to this quiet, gentle life. If Saint Peter could only say of Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God, ‘He went about doing good and God was with him,’ we can say no more of Sister Mary. May her beautiful soul rest in peace,” said Sister Mary Roger.

The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Mary was celebrated Feb. 27, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She was preceded in death by all her siblings.

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