Tomorrow, for the first time, the Church celebrates the FEAST of St. Mary Magdalene.
Pope Francis has raised the day to the same “level” of celebration as that of “THE TWELVE”, saying that Mary Magdalene was “THE APOSTLE to the Apostles.” For Mary Magdalene had been “the faithful one.” She was a faithful disciple, following Jesus not only in his ministry, but in his suffering – remaining with him at the Foot of the Cross… and to his burial. And when the Sabbath was over, she went to the tomb… and found it empty… and one she thought was the gardener nearby.
It was to Mary Magdalene that the Risen Christ spoke first and revealed this truly unimaginable reality: Jesus of Nazareth was the Risen One, The Christ. And she was given a Mission: go tell the others. Prepare the way for my return to them… Truth be told, her witness changed the lives of “the Apostles” and of everyone whose name is Christian. As I think of the life of Mary Magdalene, I think of a woman who was faithful to Jesus whom she loved and to the Mission he gave her.
We come here today to celebrate the life of Sister Mary Therese Slaymaker. Sister Mary Matthias to some, Mary T to many and Aunt Mary to a very special and cherished few. I believe, that like Mary Magdalene, Mary Slaymaker was faithful to the Mission that the Risen Christ gave to her.
Mary was the first child of Reginald and Catherine Slaymaker born on August 23, 1926. Later, her brother Joseph’s arrival would further enrich the family. Like so many in our Congregation, Mary grew up in Holy Name parish in Brooklyn. She attended the Juniorate and entered the Congregation on Feb. 2, 1944.
In living the Mission, Mary “did it all” in so many different ways and places. She taught in grammar schools and high schools, served as a librarian, an Administrator at both grammar and high school levels, a Director of Religious Education and, in what we sometimes refer to as “retirement”, Mary was a “volunteer” in Bishop Kearney High School.
As each new part of the journey unfolded, Mary’s passion for education and preparation for each new ministry was clear. For each new ministry, Mary insisted that she be properly prepared and “credentialed.” And so she was very often a student in various colleges – so that she could do the best she could possibly do – for the MISSION she had embraced.
And in the last few years, even when life was not so easy, Mary continued to keep up with the Church and all its “doings”, the nation’s news and the lives of those around her – family, Community, friends, acquaintances, and the nurses and aides who cared for her. Mary remained engaged with life and the people she lived it with all her days.
How does one sustain such faithfulness to the Mission for over 70 years? Prayer.
One of my earliest memories of Mary is back in DeGraw St. where she was our Superior. There, every morning, no matter what time I arrived, Mary was already there; sitting quietly in the Chapel at prayer. It was a lesson for me then and remains an important lesson today. Thank you, Mary.
One does need to acknowledge that upon meeting Mary, one could be ‘put off’ by an appearance of meeting a rather stern person. Students from St. Agnes, Degraw Street recently told her niece, Rose, that until they “got sent to the Principal’s office”, they were afraid of her. But when they got to know her, they found her to be fair and even had a good sense of humor! Those are major compliments from grammar school students!
And there was another very special group of people for whom Mary had a deep and abiding love: her family. Mary loved Joe and Marie. She delighted in the growing up of each of the nieces and nephews, and rejoiced in the birth of the “grands”. In the drawer near her bed, we found pictures of you all.
On that morning unlike any other in human history, Mary Magdalene was the first to meet the Risen Christ and the first to be missioned to proclaim this amazing and good news.\On Sunday night, Mary T. Slaymaker also met the Risen Christ who welcomed her and thanked her for being so faithful to the mission he had given her. I believe he welcomed her with open arms.
Who knows… perhaps Mary Magdalene was also there smiling – and ready to welcome this faithful woman, Mary T – to the Kindom she has spent her life proclaiming!
Ginny Down, CSJ
Sister Mary Slaymaker, CSJ died on July 17, 2016 in the 73rd year of her religious life.