Sister Mary Louise Tweedy, CSJ

As we all know, we did not expect to be here this morning.  A week ago today, Mary Lou was living her life in her own way.  That night, she ended up in the hospital, and soon after she passed into unconsciousness.  As her nephew, Tom, said: what a privilege it was for us to accompany her on her journey home.  He commented that in the two days during which different family members stayed with their aunt, they felt consoled by the presence and the words of the Sisters who were there, especially Sister Suzanne, Sister Sue and Sister Mary St. John.  When Mary Lou finally breathed her last on Thursday morning, she passed peacefully into her new life. 

Different words characterize Mary Lou – passionate; strong likes and dislikes; love of God, family, learning, teaching athletics, Atlantic City; amazing generosity; best teacher ever (no one ever closed an eye much less slept in her classes!); creative: lucky (let us not forget her trips to Atlantic City with her dear friend, Joan, and later with Mary.)

Let me read you some words that her father, Edwin (whose name she bore), wrote to her just before her reception.

“Dearest Mary Lou,

I am sitting here watching the ripples in a comparatively calm Sound, wondering what a father should write at a time like this, to a most loving daughter….

These lovely memories keep rambling through my mind in a sort of kaleidoscopic fashion – the two year old so concerned about her “doll baby”; the three year old who helped me push the lawn mower; the “take charge girl” of nine that was going to look after me; the two-gun gal that could climb the highest tree and play ball better than any kid in the neighborhood; the twelve year old receiving her prize birthday present – her baby sister!; the playmaker on the high school basketball team that was more concerned about team-work than personal glory; the college girl -swimmer, organizer, basketball, field days and square dances; the sports director at Shoreham – how those youngsters loved you and how they profited by your efforts; and now the lady entering a new life dedicated as always to the service of others.

To put it mildly, I have always been proud of you; I am mighty proud of you now.  Simply, I am glad you were born.”

  Staying with the family memories, Tom shared something with me that really touched me.  While he was making some of the phone calls after Mary Lou had died, different cousins were sharing various experiences and memories.  As he listened, he realized there was a common thread.  Whether it was a little vignette having to do with the shared Mary Louis experience /or something having to do with athletics/ or conversations where she moved in to find out what was really going on in the individual’s life,/ everyone realized that Mary Lou recognized the uniqueness of each individual and built a relationship on that. 

Any of us who knew Mary Lou knew her as a strong person who knew her mind and knew the best way of doing things – her way.  

I think this story summarizes it in a humorous way.  Mary Lou entered the Congregation in 1959 after she had completed her college education in Mt. St. Vincent.  She had been trained in secondary education and her area was history.  When it was time for her party to do their second year of novitiate, those in charge probably did not know what to do with Mary Lou so they sent her to St. Anne’s to teach – second grade!!!  She had no clue.  When asked by the supervisor how things were going, she said “I hate it!” However, she maintained that she probably had the only students who were on the eighth grade reading level when they finished second grade.  

After that year, she felt a little more comfortable teaching because she was assigned to teach fifth to eighth grades in St. Mary’s Nativity, Queens for seven years.  Then she was in her element as she was missioned to teach history in the Academy of St. Joseph for 17 years.  It was here that she and Joan became friends.   Then TMLA, her own alma mater, where she spent the rest of her teaching career.  She even had the privilege of sharing some of that time with her grand-nieces who were students at the same time.

Mary Lou retired to Brentwood and always found something to do to help others.  She enjoyed her life with Joan, and no one could have taken better care of Joan than Mary Lou in those last years of Joan’s life.  But her main thing was to live out her vocational call.  From her First Communion on, she knew that God wanted her in a special way.  “I had a seal upon my heart.”  I have to admit, I was overwhelmed when I heard those words.  It says to me that even with the suddenness of her dying and death, she certainly was ready to meet her God.  And her God graced her with many gifts in the last months of her life, including Mary St. John who will now say a few words about their time together. 

Sister Mary St. John:

I am forever grateful to Mary Lou for her generous welcome to me when, 7 months ago, I came from “the city” to share in her life in her “little yellow house” on Brentwood Road.


Since we had worked together in TMLA and entered the Sisters of St. Joseph around the same time, we had memories of the same changes in community life, Sisters we lived with, students we taught.  After lunch or supper we would still be sitting at the kitchen table for over an hour, sharing stories of family or friends and laughing!  Some Sisters here in Brentwood who have known Mary Lou tell me they were so glad to see her HAPPY these last months.   But I have to say that Mary Lou made sure that I was happy also.

Still, I was aware that this was a very difficult time for Mary Lou…she had lost her very dear friend, Sister Joan Larkin, and had suffered from a traumatic fall last June.  She went from “SPEEDY TWEEDY” (her nick-name) to a very slow, cautious walker, afraid of falling again.  When we would go for walks by the water in Bay Shore, we spent more time on the benches than walking.

Every night she lamented that she could not do all that she used to do … even though I called her the “ENERGIZER BUNNY” for doing 100 times more than I was able to do.  I heard: why can’t I walk faster?  Why am I so tired?

So now, I ask your understanding as I paraphrase a hymn as my blessing:

Mary Lou, you will RUN and not grow weary
For your God will be your strength.
And you will fly like the eagles

Via con Dios, dear Mary Lou!

Sister Mary Louise Tweedy, CSJ, the former Sister St. Edwin, died on April 11, 2024 in the 65th year of her religious life.

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