Sister Mary Stella Morrissey
“Be glad that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice.”(1 Peter 4:13)
“It’s still the season of resurrection — 50 whole days of Easter exultation. But resurrection cannot be divorced from the passion and death of Jesus — any more than the passion and death can be separated from resurrection. As Christians we share in both — sometimes, as our reading states, plagued by all sorts of trials, and then happily aware that life is good. Sister Mary Stella was no different. With deep and simple faith, she was easy-going and took life as it came, recognizing the inevitability of both cross and crown. Admittedly, however, the cross loomed large over her these past five years. Because of a stroke and consequent affliction of body, mind and spirit, she seemed a contradiction to the person we had known — the antithesis of what had gone before,” said Sister Alexa Suelzer in her commentary for Sister Mary Stella Morrissey, who died May 12.
Mary Frances Morrissey was born May 11, 1931, in Newton, Iowa, to Jeremiah and Arlene (Fellingham) Morrissey. She had three sisters and one brother, all of whom are still living. After Mary Frances’ birth, the family moved to Ames, Iowa.
“Because no Catholic high school was available in Ames, their aunts offered to sponsor one of the children at St. Agnes Academy in Indianapolis. Her sister Pat was not interested, but Mary Frances was. Accordingly, she enrolled as a freshman at St. Agnes and lived there with several other boarders who helped out with school and convent duties. Always friendly and generous, she had a favorite extracurricular activity of helping out at the local Little Sisters of the Poor. In fact, at one point she seriously considered joining their congregation,” continued Sister Alexa.
After her graduation from St. Agnes, Sister Mary Stella entered the Congregation July 22, 1949. She professed first and perpetual vows Jan. 23, 1952, and 1957, respectively. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a LPN from Indiana Vocational Technical College in Terre Haute, Ind.
For nearly two decades, Sister Mary Stella taught school, beginning in 1952 at St. Genevieve, Chicago. She also ministered two years at St. Francis Borgia, Chicago. From 1955 to 1956, Sister Mary Stella taught at Holy Redeemer, College Park, Md. She spent several years in California ministering at St. Therese, Alhambra; St. Teresa, Los Angeles; St. Anthony, Gardena; Good Shepherd, Pacifica; and St. Joseph, Hawthorne. Sister Mary Stella spent one year teaching at St. Thomas Aquinas, Indianapolis.
“After assisting with health care of the sisters during summers at the Woods, Sister Mary Stella was assigned to Lourdes Infirmary in 1971, and four years later she gained an LPN degree. For the next 20 years she served in various capacities at both Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and the motherhouse. No matter the title, she remained a person of compassion and caring attention, easy to talk to and always willing to go the extra mile. After her retirement, she continued to serve as a driver and companion to the sisters on their visits to the doctors,” said Sister Alexa.
“All her life Sister Mary Stella was an ardent sports fan, especially of basketball and football. Even if you were not watching the game yourself, you could monitor its progress by the alternate groans and cheers that rose from the neighboring TV. During a sabbatical year in Canada she had a minimal choice of U.S. teams; so she became a devotee of hockey — an enthusiasm that quickly faded when she returned to the States,” shared Sister Alexa.
A year after her retirement, Sister Mary Stella suffered a stroke.
“Being a patient was extremely difficult for her. Beset by limitations, she was frustrated that she couldn’t walk or be trusted to manage an amigo. But most debilitating were the intermittent periods of great mental and spiritual anguish — with confusion, loud weeping and crying, all so humiliating and so different from the Sister Mary Stella we knew. However, long ago Sister Mary Stella had given herself unreservedly to God, who measures our exact content, our strict capacity. As the writer Mauriac observes, for each one of us there is a cross cut to our measure, a burden reserved for us alone and which no one else can ever carry. So ‘think it not strange — this burning trial that surrounded her.’ In faith, she bore it to the very last day. The fire, the darkness, the humiliation are at an end. Now she shares — and forever — the glory of our God,” concluded Sister Alexa.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Mary Stella was celebrated May 18, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She is survived by her sisters, Barbara Lieb of Dixon, Calif.; Pat Kvidera of Traer, Iowa; and Veronica Amaral of LaCrescenta, Calif.; and her brother, Jerry, of Hollywood, Calif.
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