Dominican Sister of Peace Mary de Montfort Schexnaydre, OP, died at Mohun Health Care Center (Columbus, OH) on Monday, August 24, 2015. She was born in 1930 in Burnside, LA, and in 1951 entered the Dominican Sisters of St. Mary in New Orleans, now the Dominican Sisters of Peace. She was preceded in death by her parents, Berthil and Edith Brou Schexnaydre along with six brothers: Nolte, Berthil, Jr., Earl, Clyde, Kenneth, and Lyle and four sisters: Edith Bourg, and spouse, Toby Bourg, Bianca, Elaine and Kathleen; a niece, Lynette Allen Robert and a nephew, Tab Andrew Schexnaydre, a sister-in-law, Barbara Schexnaydre and a brother-in-law, Ruffin LeBlanc. Sister is survived by a sister, Ione S. LeBlanc; brothers, Vernon “Coon” Schexnayder and Dayton Schexnaydre and spouse, Lady Schexnaydre.
She earned a degree from St. Mary’s Dominican College in New Orleans and her MT (ASCP) Certification from Charity Hospital of Medical Technology in New Orleans. She taught in Hammond, Baton Rouge, and Cottonport, LA. She also ministered as a medical technologist at Charity Hospital in New Orleans and at Seventh Ward Hospital in Hammond, LA.
Sr. Mary Daniel reflected on Sr. de Montfort’s life during a Memorial Mass at the Columbus Motherhouse:
The first reading from Isaiah is such a gift for us because it gives us guidelines for living. It helps us daily with ways to grow in the love of our God. Isaiah calls us to be people who announce peace. In a world which does not know peace, but knows a world full of violence, this is quite a challenge. How do we announce peace? How do we announce peace as individuals and as a Congregation? I believe we announce peace by our very lives by helping one another to be peace, build peace, preach peace.
Another invitation Isaiah gives to us is to be bearers of good news. What a call this is. If we watch the evening news we can question if there is any good news to announce. But we know there is. We hear good news when we see people helping the poor, when we see people assisting the sick, when we reach out on behalf of another.
Isaiah offers us another wonderful image when he says: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who bring glad tidings.” Those people leave footprints on the mount of life. What do those footprints look like? They are footprints of love, of compassion, of joy, of forgiveness.
Sr. Mary de Montfort left her footprints on the mountain of life. A huge footprint was one of joyful selflessness. Sr. D, as she was called, rarely thought of herself. Others came first. Sister also had a wonderful sense of humor and knew what true joy was.
Her favorite ministry was the one at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. She enjoyed working with the doctors, the staff, and the patients. She loved them and they loved her. After 40 years at Charity, Sr. D moved to Rosaryville, our Spirit Life Center on Ponchatoula, LA. She ministered there for 30 years, taking care of the laundry, sheets and towels for the retreatants and guests.
She also took care of the coffee. This was very important. It was during this ministry that Sr. D left a deep footprint. The guests would see her fixing the coffee and go to talk with her. They told her their troubles and struggles. They confided in her and she listened with great compassion. They looked forward to time to spend with her.
Sister was one of my favorites over the years. She deeply touched my soul when she heard I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. She promised she would pray for me every day by name…and she did for 13 years.
Sr. Mary de Montfort was dearly loved by family, friends and community. I regret that more of you here did not get to know her as we did. What a gift she was.
Sr. Joel Gubler also reflected on Sr. Mary de Montfort’s life noting her attentiveness to menial tasks needed around the Center, such as humbly picking up things from the floor and ground, sweeping and mopping where needed, mending the linens as they came from the laundry – none of which were in her job description. “I remember that she went out to buy a large pot with an submerging rack that I needed for scalding the filled jars when I started making preserves for our gift shop. She was always aware of the needs of others,” she said.
Also, she treasured her Dominican habit and veil, which she wore daily until she died one month before her 85th birthday. It was a symbol of her devotion to the Order of Preachers, which always inspired many who attended retreats and programs in Rosaryville.
Many Sisters along with Sister’s large family and many friends gathered in the Rosaryville chapel. All joined in a prayer service where many shared memories of the multitude of quiet acts of kindness that Sister performed over the years along with some laughter. Sister’s family and her Rosaryville family displayed several tables of pictures and other items which represented her life. Sr. Francine Schwarzenberger led the wake service while Sr. Angeline Magro welcomed all at the funeral.
On Saturday morning the chapel was overflowing with so many who came to bid Sister goodbye. Sr. Joel Gubler reflected on how Sr. Mary de Montfort reflected the scriptures which had been proclaimed. Some of Sister’s very large family joined the Sisters and participated in the liturgy and sang in the choir. The congregation walked behind the hearse to the cemetery for the burial where the family gave everyone a carnation to put on a grave. This was to honor Sr. Mary de Montfort who frequently put flowers on each headstone cross. It was beautiful and every Sister had one or more flowers on their grave. The Rosaryville staff prepared a delicious dinner along with many desserts brought by Sister’ family. Both services were times of a great and joyous celebration of Sr. Mary de Montfort’s long dedicated life.
Memorials in honor of Sr. de Montfort 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.