Sister Marie (Marie Ralph) Benson
“A voice cries out: ‘In the desert prepare the way of the Lord.’” (Isaiah 40:3)
“In Advent we find ourselves at a brief way station in our journey. The mode is eager anticipation rather than struggle. We wait for the Promised One. The re-iterated refrain of Advent is ‘Come, come Lord Jesus. Come to save us. Come to redeem us. Do not delay.’ For one of us on Sunday evening, that prayer received its answer. Advent came to an early close and an eternal Christmas celebration began,” said Sister Mary Roger Madden in her commentary for Sister Marie Benson, who died Sunday, Dec. 6.
Winifred Mary Benson was born July 8, 1921, in Chicago to Ralph and Winifred (Ryan) Benson. She had one brother, Joseph, who preceded her in death. Sister Marie attended St. Leo Grade School, Chicago, and graduated from Providence Juniorate at the Woods. She entered the Congregation Jan. 5, 1939, and received the religious name Sister Marie Ralph. Sister Marie professed first and perpetual vows Aug. 15, 1941, and 1947, respectively. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a master’s degree in education from Indiana State University.
Sister Marie began her ministry in education as a music teacher at St. Therese, Fayetteville, N.C., in 1941. She taught music the next 11 years in Indiana — St. Charles, Peru; Holy Trinity, New Albany; and St. John the Baptist, Whiting — and Maryland — St. Clement, Lansdowne, and Holy Redeemer, Berwyn.
For the next 28 years, Sister Marie ministered as a teacher and principal. In Illinois, she ministered at St. Andrew, St. Mel and St. Agnes, Chicago; and St. Alexander, Palos Heights. In Indiana, she ministered at Holy Trinity, New Albany, and St. John the Baptist, Whiting. While teaching at St. John the Baptist, Sister Marie also cared for her widowed mother.
From 1981 to 1982, Sister Marie was on sabbatical with the CREDO program at Gonzaga University, Spokane, Wash. For the next four years, she ministered as the assistant business officer at Mother Theodore Guerin High School, River Grove, Ill., and as a computer teacher and librarian at St. Matthew, Indianapolis. From 1986 to 1994, Sister Marie ministered as a registrar and in other capacities at Cathedral High School, Indianapolis. She also did volunteer work with the Little Sisters of the Poor.
“In 2004, at the age of 83, Sister Marie came to the Health Care facility of the motherhouse where she quietly lived out the remainder of her years waiting for the coming of the Lord,” said Sister Mary Roger.
“The world would probably say that Sister Marie’s life was quite ordinary, much like yours and mine. But is it not something very wonderful that when the One who comes arrived he knew where to find her — in the place where Providence had placed her — and he recognized her at once for there he saw reflected a lifetime given for love of him and his people. And certainly he gave her what he had for her — the gift above all gifts — himself for all eternity,” concluded Sister Mary Roger.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Marie was celebrated Dec. 10, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding.
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