Home » Obituaries » Sister Mary Roger Madden


Sister Mary Roger Madden

A reading from the Gospel of John (20:19-21)

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

Sister Mary Roger Madden referenced this Scripture passage from the Gospel of John regarding the resurrection on a page where she wrote this poem entitled, “A Little While.”

“Hold not to what is seen, cling no more to comfort.

Ephemeral as the morning midst

That hid my face from you

Here in this borrowed garden,

Ours for just this little while.

Go … Tell the others!”

Mary Roger’s whole life was a journey of “telling others.” Whether writing, speaking, or in prayer, the focus of her being was an attempt to articulate the faith she held so deeply in her mind and in her heart, wrote Providence Associate Cynthia Ann MacWhorter in her commentary – delivered by Sister Janice Smith – for Sister Mary Roger Madden, who passed away on Saturday, June 24, 2023, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. She was 102-years-old and had been a Sister of Providence for almost 83 years.

Sister Janice continued: In 1920, the ground was broken for our Blessed Sacrament Chapel at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, and in that same year, a baby was born on December 5 in Decatur, Illinois, the first-born child to Roger and Vernal Burleigh Madden. She was baptized Mary Francis. Soon to follow were three boys: John, Richard and David – now deceased – who would also join Mary Francis as siblings. All would repeatedly relocate due to their father’s job.

Mary Francis became a voracious reader at an early age. However, she was forced to assume adult-like responsibilities at the age of 13 when her father suddenly died, and her mother had to go to work to support the family.

Mary Francis was always interested in learning and loved school. She attended grade school in St. Mary, Richmond, and then high school in Decatur, Illinois. Still, during this time, Mary Francis continued to care for her brothers as well as working at various jobs prior to entering the novitiate of the Sisters of Providence in September of 1940. Now known as Sister Mary Roger, she professed her first vows on Aug. 15, 1943, and perpetual vows on Jan. 23, 1949.

Sister Mary Roger’s reverence for learning and for absorbing and imparting knowledge made her an ideal candidate for the teaching profession. She prepared for this ministry by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in English from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.

For the next 18 years, Sister Mary Roger taught middle and junior high school student in Indiana and Illinois while studying for her master’s degree in English at Indiana University which she received in 1964. Her thesis topic was entitled, “Hawthorne’s Women.” This was written long before the term “Women’s Studies” was widely known or acknowledged.

Sister Mary Roger Madden (left) and her guest, Sister Linda Thompson.

Sister Mary Roger’s secondary teaching career of 18 years began at Immaculata High School in Washington, D.C., in 1961.

At this time, Sister Mary Roger was evolving into the kind of educator who revered learning and imparted knowledge with clarity and conviction. As a master teacher, she inspired younger educators to explore and create classrooms where connections could be made in younger minds for a better grasp of the universality of the human experience. She also inspired them to see how the impact of Christianity and the followers of Jesus Christ could change the world.

And as is true with all of us, Sister Mary Roger was far from perfect. For one thing, she drove too fast – and not only with a car! As she grew older and her mobility was limited, she was awarded the use of an “Amigo.” Still, her “heavy foot” persisted. That meant that the “life and limbs” of unsuspecting pedestrians were put at imminent risk! Finally, the maintenance crew permanently set her vehicle at “slow speed.”

And if that driving challenge were not enough, our Mary Roger also lacked a good sense of direction. Once on a trip to South Bend, which is in the north of Indiana, she was surprised to see a sign on the I-65 that read “Columbus, Indiana, 10 miles ahead,” which is about as far south as one can go in Indiana!

Many have commented in the days since her passing that her death marks the “end of an era.” As her close friend and former SP, Cynthia MacWhorter, writes, “for those sisters who experienced the 1960s, 70s and 80s as religious women, this statement rings true, due to the strong, talented women who have made their way through turbulent times and emerged even stronger, more committed, more prayerful and more dedicated to the ideas and ideals of this religious community.”

Sister Mary Roger Madden

And if that weren’t enough, Sister Mary Roger is also the author of Volume III of the history of the Sisters of Providence, entitled “The Path Marked Out.” In addition, Sister Mary Roger was a major contributor to the revision of the SP Constitutions approved in 1994.

During her life in community, Sister Mary Roger was always articulate and presented her point of view with great conviction, backed by intelligence and knowledge. It might also be said that she was stubborn … OK, she was! And she was also impatient – to the very end.

Still, she was honest to the core and expressed her ideas and opinions from deeply held convictions, a thoroughly loving heart, and a spiritual heart second to none. Someone once described her as “the conscience of the community” – perhaps.

However, as she lay journeying on the way home to God, she was surrounded by love. The love of friends who knew her for the person she was – a religious woman whose life reflected Christ and the human condition, while always, always, speaking of Him, telling the “others” in her embrace of love, and of a life fully, totally and completely devoted to her Creator and her God!

Funeral services for Sister Mary Roger took place on Wednesday, July 5, and Thursday, July 6, at the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

A Wake took place from 2:30-4:30 p.m., on Wednesday, July 5. Mass of Christian burial took place at 11 a.m., on Thursday, July 6.

Memorial contributions may be made in honor of Sister Mary Roger to the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Mary Roger in the comment section below.

Sister Mary Roger Madden

Complete Ministry

In Illinois: Teacher, Our Lady of Mercy, Chicago (1943-45); Teacher, St. Agnes, Chicago (1950-52); Teacher, St. Leo, Chicago (1958-61); Teacher, Marywood, Evanston (1965-68).

In Washington, D.C.: Teacher, Immaculata (1961-64); Teacher, Immaculata Prep (1971-74).

In California: Teacher, St. Anthony, Gardena (1974-77); Adult English as a Second Language Tutor, Los Angeles (1977-78); Teacher, St. Joseph, Lakewood (1978-86).

In Indiana: Teacher, St. Joseph, Hammond (1945-48); Teacher, Holy Cross, Indianapolis (1949); Teacher, St. Charles, Peru (1949-50); Teacher, St. Mary, Richmond (1952-54); Teacher, St. John the Baptist, Fort Wayne (1955-58); Teacher, Our Lady of Providence, Clarksville (1964-65); Teacher, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (1968-69); House of Prayer, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (1969-71); Congregation Historian, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (1986-96); Pilgrimage Coordinator, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2001-2007); Blessed Sacrament Chapel Coordinator, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2007-2016); Oral History, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2007-2010); Blessed Sacrament Chapel Assistant, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2016-17); Prayer, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2017-2023).

Share this:

Donate in her honor

Has this sister made a difference in your life? Help continue the mission.

Obituary search

At this time, our site contains all Sisters of Providence obituaries beginning in 2009.

Looking for a sister?

Find her here! Photos, articles, obituaries of sisters you have known and loved.

Subscribe to obituaries

Sign up to receive notifications in your inbox when a new obituary is posted.


  1. Avatar Debbie Griffey on June 26, 2023 at 4:26 pm

    What a testament to a life devoted to God and Providence! May her family and friends be comforted by a life well lived.

  2. Avatar Jane O’Brien Argento on June 27, 2023 at 5:06 pm

    Sister Mary Roger was a dear and beautiful woman— warm, faith-filled, brilliant and loving. I have been a recipient of her love and wisdom since I first met her at Immaculata almost 61 years ago, and I will always be grateful for the gift of her friendship over those many years. She will be missed.

  3. Avatar Sharon Turpin on July 4, 2023 at 9:57 pm

    Sister Mary Roger was a ray of sunshine in our family. As a child it was such a treat visiting with her. She was so knowledgeable and quite humorous! As an adult I was so thankful to have her in my life & looked forward to our conversations. Our last visit was Mother’s Day. We spoke of our memories of family. Rest well Mary Roger & give Mom my love.

  4. Avatar Barb Free on July 6, 2023 at 4:39 pm

    During the time I worked at SOP, I served the meals at the long term care facility then called East West. (2017 to 2020)
    Sister Mary Roger was such a delight to be around and I thoroughly enjoyed the time I was able to spend with her when she came to the table for lunch.
    Such an amazing lady and her smile lit up the room with all wonderful stories she would tell me about her life.

  5. Avatar Sonja Wassgren Morgan on July 21, 2023 at 12:29 pm

    One of the most influential teachers I had. I will forever be grateful to her. She was a strong and intelligent woman who created strong, powerful women from young girls. I am at a loss for words. (Which never happens.) It seems impossible to use the right words to describe the impact she had on my life and so many other women.

  6. Avatar Dr. Diane Gartland on January 4, 2024 at 12:13 am

    I remember Sister Mary Roger well and where I sat in her English class so many years ago . . 61 years ago (class of 1965). My youngest sister was born while I sat in class and I recall Sister encouraging me to go to the nurse’s office since I was rather distraught over my mother’s health. Out of all my educational endeavors, I don’t know why I would remember her so fondly. I only recall her looking over her coke bottle lenses at us a bit sternly and Beowulf and did she also teach us Latin? I seem to recall that all Gaul is divided into three parts. Nevertheless, and without words, she influenced my spirit so now, along with a priest who taught English Lit. in college, I find myself drawn to work as a psychoanalytic essayist, teacher and therapist. Truly, the line “Hold not to what is seen, cling no more to comfort . . . ” has been given to me across time as an invisible balm and therein lies a certain spiritual wealth. Go with God dear Sister Mary Roger.

  7. Avatar MaryBeth Strassel on January 11, 2024 at 4:52 am

    More than six months away from her passing, i still feel the hole in my life left from Mary Roger’s passing. We’d been friends for over 60 years since she taught me at Immaculata. The song “For Good” from Wicked expresses it best for mw: “It well may be/That we will never meet again In this lifetime/So let me say before we part/So much of me/Is made of what I learned from you/You’ll be with me/Like a handprint on my heart.”

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.