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Sister Marianne (Trinita Marie) McGriffin

Sister Marianne McGriffin

“‘Yes, House of Israel, like clay in the potter’s hand, so you are in mine.’” (Jeremiah 18:6)

“Is it any wonder that the story of the potter-God who shapes and reshapes the clay was Sister Marianne’s favorite scripture? All through her life, and most especially during her 66 years as a Sister of Providence, she consciously and confidently rested in the loving hands of God, whose call she answered and whose creativity she echoed, in ways beyond anything she could have asked or imagined,” said Sister Rosemary Nudd in her commentary for Sister Marianne McGriffin, who died Oct. 24.

Mary Ann McGriffin entered this world May 5, 1926, in Linton, Ind. She was one of six children of Edward and Doris (Walker) McGriffin. She attended grade school at St. Peter, Linton, and secondary school at Linton High School; Providence High School, Chicago; and Ladywood School, Indianapolis. She entered the Congregation Feb. 2, 1944, and received the religious name Sister Trinita Marie. Sister Marianne professed first and perpetual vows Aug. 15, 1946, and 1951, respectively. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, a master’s degree in education from the University of Dayton, and another master’s degree in religious education from the University of Notre Dame.

Sister Marianne began teaching in 1946 at St. Mary Carmelite, Joliet, Ill. Her other Illinois classrooms included Our Lady of Mercy and St. Agnes, Chicago; and St. Joseph, Downers Grove.

“It was at St. Joseph School that Sister Marianne and I met. She was my seventh-grade teacher, whose influence and example guided my decision to enter the Sisters of Providence and whose unfaltering love and support have accompanied me for more than 50 years,” shared Sister Rosemary.

In Indiana, Sister Marianne ministered as a teacher or principal at St. Benedict, Terre Haute; St. Charles, Bloomington; St. John, Loogootee; and St. Joseph, Jasper. She also taught four years at Holy Redeemer, Berwyn, Md. In the 1970s and 1980s, Sister Marianne ministered in religious education in the Diocese of South Bend-Fort Wayne, Ind.; Mother of Good Counsel Parish, Louisville, Ky.; and St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Elkhart, Ind.

“Throughout the 1970s, as Sister Marianne ministered in religious education in several parishes, she began to recognize — in her own life and in the lives of others — the astounding power of art to encourage and enrich growth in the spiritual life. And so in 1989 she founded Open SPaces — a center where body, mind and spirit could come together in creativity, reflection, prayer and praise. It was not long before Open SPaces took to the road, as Sister Marianne brought her faith, hope, love and clay to parishes, retreat centers and group settings of all kinds. The workshops and wisdom which she shared with so many during these years lives on in her book ‘Reflections in Clay: Mirror of Truth,’ which was published in 2002,” said Sister Rosemary.

“As Providence would have it, Sister Marianne became interested in religious iconography, and by the time she came home to the Woods at age 80, she had spent a number of years immersed in the sacred task of learning to ‘write’ icons. In her final ministry, that of iconographer, Sister Marianne delighted in deepening and developing her spiritual life and artistic skills while teaching others to write icons and arranging for the reproduction of some of her own works — surely a rich and lasting legacy. And as one of her iconography students told me, ‘Even while ill she was having her material brought to her room to continue this special gift and joy of hers.’

“As strong as her beloved icons and as malleable as her first love, clay, Sister Marianne revealed God and reveled in God’s creation in ways large and small, as those close to her attest.

“She was an adventurer who once walked under Niagara Falls during a retreat, who gladly accepted a ride in a hot air balloon, and who, following in the footsteps of our saint, Mother Theodore, found a creative response to a clerical obstacle.

“She was an engaged participant in SP community meetings, with ‘a beautiful way of pulling everyone’s ideas together into one’ according to a member of her Local Government Unit, who added, ‘she loved doing this,’” continued Sister Rosemary.

“She was a companion to three Providence Associates, with whom she shared  the SP mission and charism, and who in turn cherished her wisdom and her joy.

“She was, as those involved in retreats or spiritual direction with her have noted, ‘an artist who shared with all gentleness,’ and ‘knew how to communicate without words,’ as well as ‘a perceptive and compassionate listener who listened with her heart … and her art!’

“Sister Marianne’s death, to us, was sudden, and to her, as someone said, it may have been a surprise — but she was not unprepared, for hers was never an unexamined life.  During these last difficult weeks her health was fragile, her physical struggles many, and having to rely so much on others an unaccustomed and unwelcome trial, yet praying and journaling were first on her agenda every morning,” said Sister Rosemary.

“Dear Sister Marianne, dear sister and friend, we miss you already, yet we know you are with us still, holding us close in care and prayer. We thank God and we thank you for the work of your hands and the wonder of your life: everlasting as beauty, enduring as devotion, unending as love,” concluded Sister Rosemary.

The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Marianne was celebrated Oct. 28, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She is survived by two sisters, Marjorie Bronsing of South Bend, Ind., and Sister Francine McGriffin, SP. She is also survived by one brother, Phillip of Maricopa, Ariz.

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