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Hometown: Louisville, Ohio
Date of Entrance: November 21, 1956
Date of First Profession: May 16, 1959
Date of Final Profession: With Carmelites – May 16, 1962; with Adrian Dominican Sisters – September 22, 1985
Current Ministry: Prayer and presence, along with active ministry in the campus gardens
Sister Mary Miday, OP, entered the Adrian Dominican Congregation through a circuitous route – after first being a member of the Carmelites. A native of Louisville, Ohio, she was the fifth of eight children: Verna, Walter, Marie, Rose, Mary, Howard, Margaret, and Catherine. Howard died at the age of 3 months.
Working the land has been a key component of Sister Mary’s life. She lived with two grandparents, who had 10 to 13 acres of land with an orchard. They raised hogs and chickens and grew vegetables, grain, and fruit for the family and the animals. They always had a dog.
Sister Mary’s father also worked in the foundry, casting iron in front of a very hot furnace. “The heat and the dust which he breathed in each day almost killed him,” she said. “Finally, his doctor told him that if he stayed there, he would have one year to live because of the damage to his lungs.” Her father then began to work for the railroad as a foreman.
After graduating from Louisville High School, and after working in a factory office for a few years, Sister Mary joined the order of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns at the monastery in Elysburg, Pennsylvania, taking the name Sister Marie Zita. She went back to her baptismal name during the Vatican II renewal. She worked in the kitchen, laundry, and vegetable garden and made sandals, the only things the Carmelite Sisters wore on their feet. Originally, they were made of hemp, but eventually of leather.
At the time of religious renewal after the Second Vatican Council, Sister Mary requested a leave of absence from the monastery to spend time with her aging parents. Until that time, she could not visit her family. Her mother died the first year that Sister Mary was home, so she requested another year to be with her father, who had a stroke and died that year. She was then asked to help some Carmelite Sisters in Mississippi with a project. At the end of that time, she questioned what God was calling her to, since she was now involved in active lifestyle work.
To help in the discernment process, and with her Carmelite community’s support, Sister Mary served in pastoral ministry, mostly with people of color, in parishes in Mississippi, Louisiana, and New Mexico: visiting the sick and homebound, teaching catechism, and teaching young children to make and sell their crafts – all of this while living with another community.
After feeling confident that she could live the active lifestyle, she seriously considered transferring to three religious communities. After spending sufficient time with each, she determined that God was not calling her to any of them.
“I was about to go back to the Carmelites and tell them I was called to stay with them,” she said. “I told God, ‘You led me around the country like Abraham and here I am not finding a community you have chosen for me, so I am going back to my present community and remain there.’” However, that night, she was inspired when reading the story of Sister Maureen O’Connell, OP, who had been a police officer before entering the Adrian Dominican Sisters and was then allowed to return to police work, but in a different capacity. “I thought this was a broad-minded community. I thought I could fit in somewhere,” Sister Mary said. She visited Adrian and was convinced that this was where God was calling her, and made her Final Profession as an Adrian Dominican Sister on September 22, 1985.
During her period of discernment with the Adrian Dominican Congregation, Sister Mary served as an activities assistant at St. Theresa Home in Cincinnati and earned an associate’s degree in fine arts from Siena Heights College (now University) in Adrian. She later earned a bachelor’s degree in individualized study from Lourdes College, (University) in Sylvania, Ohio, and certificates in occupational therapy and gerontology.
From 1989 to 2005, Sister Mary served in occupational therapy at health care and rehabilitation centers in Florida. She then served in volunteer ministry at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Citrus Springs, Florida, from 2006 to 2010 – taking three months off in 2007-2008 to volunteer with the people affected by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
Sister Mary’s special memories as an Adrian Dominican Sister include getting to know the Sisters in her Mission Groups and in the Mid-Atlantic and Florida Chapters; the fun times, especially in warm Florida; growing and sharing tomatoes; and enjoying her first fishing tournament at Lake Dardanelle, Georgia. She also recalled the times, in Adrian, of group sharing in her apartment at the Motherhouse and of quiet prayer time.
Sister Mary also cherished the times she worked in the garden at the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse. “It was like the Garden of Eden,” she said. “I saw God in everything. When I left the building [to go to the garden], I couldn’t wait to see what God had done. That was my prayer life.”
Sister Mary sees her time in religious life as rewarding. “As a Carmelite, I felt so close to our Lord while developing my prayer life,” she said. “It was also a time to develop a spiritual relationship with the rest of the community. After that, I felt called to the active lifestyle, to the Adrian Dominicans. The experience of God’s presence did not cease but seemed to draw both lifestyles together in my life.”