Sister Mary Alice (Joseph Gertrude) Zander
“As gracious distributors of God’s manifold grace, put your gifts at the service of one another … so that in all things God may be glorified.” (1 Peter 4:10a, 11b)
“‘The only gift we can give each other is to celebrate life every day.’ Sister Mary Alice sent me a card several weeks ago and wrote that message on it. And I know it wasn’t just a message for me but for all of us who loved and were loved by Sister Mary Alice,” said Sister Pat Mahoney in her commentary for Sister Mary Alice Zander, who died March 5.
Mary Alice Zander was born June 12, 1944, in Chicago, the only child of Joseph and Gertrude (Toussaint) Zander. She attended St. Andrew Grade School, Chicago, and graduated from the Aspirancy at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. She entered the Congregation Sept. 17, 1962, and received the religious name Sister Joseph Gertrude. She professed first vows and perpetual vows Aug. 15, 1965, and March 16, 1974, respectively. Sister Mary Alice earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a master’s degree in religious studies from Mundelein University.
“Sister Mary Alice was a gift to her parents, Joe and Gert, her many cousins, especially Dick and Joan and their children, Rich, Matt and Paula and their families. Sister Mary Alice was a gift to my parents, Tom and Marge, as well. They thought of her as their adopted daughter,” shared Sister Pat.
Sister Mary Alice began teaching in 1967 at Our Lady of Mercy, Chicago. Two years later she ministered as the coordinator of religious education at Our Lady of Mercy Parish and taught at St. Andrew, Chicago. From 1972 to 1978, Sister Mary Alice served as the coordinator of parish religious education at St. Bernadette, Evergreen Park, Ill. She then became director of religious education at St. Fabian Church, Bridgeview, Ill. From 1982 to 1986, she returned to the classroom at St. Domitilla, Hillside, Ill. From 1986 to 1993, Sister Mary Alice ministered as a religious education consultant with the Office of Catholic Education, Archdiocese of Chicago.
From 1994 to 2000, Sister Mary Alice gave service to the Congregation as the director of novices. She then spent several years in retreat ministry and spiritual direction either at Soul Space Retreat Center, Chicago, or the Institute of Pastoral Studies, Loyola University.
“In the mid-1990s, Sister Mary Alice turned her focus from ministry in the Chicago area to ministry with the Sisters of Providence, first as director of novices and six years ago as director of Providence Associates. Sister Mary Alice walked with women and men in two distinct but mutually related commitments to the Sisters of Providence. Two of Sister Mary Alice’s novices (back then) were at her bedside on Saturday [March 5]. She spoke to both of them individually an hour before she died,” said Sister Pat.
“Our Providence Associates! Sister Mary Alice gave her all to building this relationship. She loved this ministry. It was her ‘baby,’ and she continued as she was able after her surgeries and chemotherapies. Again, an hour or so before she died, Sister Mary Alice was talking with Sister Diane Mason, assistant director of associates. Actually, I think Sister Mary Alice was telling Sister Diane what still needed to be done. Ask Sister Diane about Sister Mary Alice’s cell phone and the important photo on it! Sister Mary Alice wanted to be with her associates as long as she could,” continued Sister Pat.
“So we celebrate today — and tomorrow and through the day that never ends, the gift of life our Provident God gave us in Sister Mary Alice: a woman of faith whose presence has touched us deeply, a woman who calls us to celebrate life and share it with each other. For each of us is, as Sister Mary Alice was: ‘A generous distributor of God’s manifold grace,’ called to ‘put your gifts at the service of one another … so that in all things God may be glorified.’
“It is as Providence would have it,” concluded Sister Pat.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Mary Alice was celebrated March 10, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus, himself a Providence Associate, presiding. She is survived by several cousins.
To read Sister Mary Alice’s Chicago Tribune online obituary, click here.
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