“God has given me the grace of knowing that I want, more than anything else, to be a Sister of St. Dominic. Will you say that I may?”
The seventeen-year-old Mary Elizabeth O’Donnell, later to be known in religion as Sister Marie Joannes, was writing to Mother Gerald Barry on April 30, 1940, expressing her desire to enter the Congregation. At the time, Mary was less than two months away from graduating from Visitation High School in Detroit, and the Adrian Dominican Sisters who staffed the school had surely shaped her dream of religious life.
Mary was born on November 18, 1922, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to Henry and Eva (Leppert) O’Donnell. Henry was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, while Eva was born in New York City. The couple had three children: Mary; Elizabeth, who was born in 1925; and Harry, born in 1928.
It seems that the family came to New York City at some point in 1928, for Mary attended St. Monica’s Parish school there in 1928-29 and was confirmed at the church in March 1929. By the time the 1929-30 school year began, the O’Donnells were in Michigan; Mary attended Visitation School for the rest of her elementary and secondary education. At least at the time she entered the Congregation, the family lived in the Detroit enclave of Highland Park and Henry was working at the Bower Roller Bearing Company factory in Detroit.
Read more about Sister Marie Joannes (pdf)
Memorial gifts may be made to Adrian Dominican Sisters, 1257 East Siena Heights Drive, Adrian, Michigan, 49221.
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Our Adrian Dominican cemetery with its circular headstones is a beautiful place of rest for women who gave their lives in service to God — and a peaceful place for contemplation and remembrance.
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