Dominican Sister of Peace Mary C. Gerrior, OP (88), a native of Waltham, MA, died on August 24, 2015, at Sansbury Care Center (St. Catharine, KY). Sr. Mary is survived by sister Jeanne Martin and brothers Paul and Lawrence Gerrior. She is also survived by several nieces and nephews.
A Dominican for 58 years, Sr. Mary earned a nursing degree from Mt. Auburn Hospital (Cambridge, MA); a BS degree in nursing from University of Nebraska (Omaha, NE) and a M.Div. degree in Theology from Andover Newton Theological School (Newton, MA). She ministered as a nurse at St. Catherine Hospital (McCook, NE); Rosary Hospital (Campbellsville, KY); Sansbury Infirmary (St. Catharine, KY) and Mary Immaculate Hospital (Lebanon, KY). She was a head nurse/supervisor in Clinical Pastoral Education/Associate Program Director at Tewksbury Hospital (Tewksbury, MA). Sr. Mary was also a Clinical Pastoral Education Supervisor at Presentation Health System (Sioux Falls, SD); St. Mary of the Plains Hospital (Lubbock, TX) and St. Vincent Hospital (Worcester, MA). She was the Director of Pastoral Care at St. John Hospital (Lowell, MA) and Bethsada Hospital (Cincinnati, OH). Sr. Mary was a Counsellor at Middleton Counselling Center (Middleton, MA) and a Chaplain at Rhode Island Hospital (Providence, RI). Sister also ministered as a Secretary/Receptionist at Eastern Point Retreat House (Gloucester, MA) and Data Instruments (Lexington, MA). Sister provided retreat work for Movement for a Better World at Washington, DC and was Director of Religious Education in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Sr. Elaine deRosiers, OP, reflected on Sr. Mary’s life and offered the following reflection:
I believe that when Sr. Mary Carmel Gerrior chose the readings for this occasion, she wanted to leave with us some very important lessons from Sacred Scripture.
The passage from the Book of Wisdom 3:1-6, 9, includes the hidden counsel of God on suffering. Wisdom reminds us that the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and they are in peace. Very positive! But we are reminded that they may be chastised a little before being greatly blessed. The image the author of Wisdom uses is that of gold being tried in the furnace.
The reading from Acts 10:34-36, 42-43 invites us to listen to lessons from Peter. The first one is: God shows no partiality. Whoever, no matter what one’s background is, whoever fears God and acts uprightly is acceptable to God.
To us, Dominican Sisters of Peace, Peter’s other lesson is especially relevant.
Preach to the people the message of the peace of Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.
In fact, Peter says we are COMMISSIONED to do just that. Preach peace!
The Gospel that Mary chose is from John’s discourse on the Bread of Life. (John 6:37-40). The lesson here is clear. Whoever goes to Jesus, the Bread of Life, will never hunger and whoever believes in him shall never thirst. John quotes Jesus saying, “This is the will of my Father that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I shall raise that one up one the last day.” That’s a good message for Mary herself on this day.
Mary made one other choice. The responsorial psalm “The Lord is my Shepherd” led me to look upon Mary as a shepherd. What does a shepherd do? A shepherd watches over the flock entrusted to her. She leads them to water and to places where they may graze. She guides them to places of rest, and remains with them throughout the night. During much of her life, Mary shepherded others.
Her first desire was to be a missionary, but to shepherd people in foreign lands was not God’s plan for her. Then, to shepherd the sick, Mary became a nurse in Massachusetts. At that time, Mary’s aunt, Sr. Ethelreda of the Kentucky Dominicans, encouraged her niece to apply for a nursing position at the fledgling hospital of her Dominican congregation, Mary Immaculate, in Lebanon, Kentucky. (we know, this hospital was later sold and is now Springview Hospital.)
It was at Mary Immaculate that Mary felt called to become a Dominican Sister of St. Catharine, Kentucky. Her religious name was Sr. Mel Marie. After the novitiate, Sr. Mel Marie continued her shepherding as a nurse in all of our congregationally owned hospitals.
Mary then found sheep to care for in Washington, DC – doing retreat work for the Movement for a Better World Organization. This was followed by two years of directing retreats at Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester, Mass.
Even before completing a degree of Master of Divinity in 1981, Mary began a ministry which I believe was her biggest joy – supervising Clinical Pastoral Education. She did this over a period of 29 years in Massachusetts, South Dakota, Ohio, and Rhode Island and even in the Province of Ontario, Canada. Clinical Pastoral Education, commonly called CPE, as you know, is a broad-based training program that goes beyond denominational boundaries to focus on better equipping people for ministry within and without the church walls.
Her best shepherding happened in the 1990s in Lubbock, Texas. What could be better than to shepherd the shepherds? To minister to the ministers? With a diploma in Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy, Sr. Mary began to head one of two certified Clinical Pastoral Education programs in West Texas. Hers was at St. Mary’s Hospital; the other at Methodist Hospital, both in Lubbock. Sr. Mary’s program helped guide ministers, priests, sisters, and hospital and prison chaplains in their role of shepherding their sheep.
Mary’s success in this field is noted in two plaques in her room here that indicate the appreciation the people of Lubbock had for her ministry.
The head of the program at the Methodist Hospital is quoted as saying that the lyrics in the Sound of Music that the nuns sing about Maria – is appropriate…”How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?” He continued: “The twinkle in her eye can throw people off, but she is a very knowledgeable and capable CPE supervisor and administrator.”
Mary moved closer to home in Worcester, MA, in 2000 where she continued working in this same ministry for some time. It is said that Mary continued to shepherd the people in her apartment complex by many acts of kindness, for example, the making of Irish – knit sweaters and taking people shopping. When she moved to the motherhouse here in 2010, she continued her love for shopping – not only for herself but for others. She loved to buy presents for unexpected recipients. She was very generous.
The roles changed when Sr. Mary moved to Sansbury in 2014. I guess you could say the shepherd became one of the sheep. In her years here, the staff shepherded her in many ways, and we Sisters are very grateful for their support. Now, as we send Sr. Mary Carmel to her eternal rest, let us pray to her beloved Our Lady of Mount Carmel, for whom Mary was named because of her father’s great love for Our Lady under this title.
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, please guide your namesake into eternal life where she may rest peacefully with the many women and men for whom she was a good shepherd.
The funeral services were held Friday, August 28, at Sansbury Care Center Chapel with burial at the St. Catharine Motherhouse cemetery. Memorials in honor of Sr. Mary may be submitted securely online at oppeace.org or mailed to Dominican Sisters of Peace, Office of Mission Advancement, 2320 Airport Dr, Columbus, OH 43219-2098.