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Photo by Diane Cox
Sister Marie passes on words of wisdom and support to a woman who cares for the Sisters at Ursuline.
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Photo by Diane Cox
Sister Marie shares a moment with her fellow Sisters at Ursuline Convent in a gathering to celebrate their time together before they part ways.
In 1938, when she was 24, Sister Marie McClowkey joined the church to become a nun.
Thinking back to her declaration to make a lifelong choice, Sister Marie could remember her decision.
"Through God’s will and God's grace, you are called," Sister Marie, of the Ursuline Convent of the Holy Family in Alton, said of her decision to join the church. "Some may try to avoid it, but it's there; and only by the grace of God and through the courage he gives you, you answer it."
According to the University of Scranton, Journal of Clinical Psychology, 45 percent of Americans set a New Year’s resolution for themselves every year, but only 8 percent see it through. A resolution is a commitment and with only an 8 percent success rate for a one-year goal, imagine a commitment lasting more than 75 years.
Sister Marie has made such a commitment.
She was born Feb. 17, 1914, in New Orleans. She completed high school and majored in English education in college. She received her master’s degree in English from Saint Louis University. After graduating college, she was an English teacher for two years before she joined the church.
Sister Marie taught children in New Orleans throughout most of her church service.
"I taught English until 1983 and had to retire because I was losing my vision and my hearing at that point," Sister Marie said. "I was to the point where our principal had to help me complete my own work, so it was time."
After retirement, Sister Marie was sent to a retreat house in Villa Maria in Minnesota for a year.
"It was a wonderful retreat house," she said, smiling. "It was such a delightful year, I must say."
The way Sister Marie spends her time sets her apart from others.
"I am not a number person, I'm a quality person ... how you spend that time you have," Sister Marie said. "Now that I'm 100, I still do as I always have; I leave everything to God and his plan for me.
"What my years are for is to live my life to give my love to God, and to receive his love, share his love, and pray for those who do not know Him."
With the Ursuline Convent closing in the near future, Sister Marie has the next chapter in her life planned. She will return to New Orleans to reside at the Our Lady of Wisdom Convent, where she will be closer to her family.
"Sister Marie has done so many wonderful things for the community," Superior Sister Susan said. "She is looking forward to returning to the New Orleans area to lend support and prayer to an area that can really benefit from it.
"Becoming a nun and dedicating your life to the church is not something you retire from," Sister Susan said. "You may retire from active ministry or an active service, but you never retire from your commitment to God."
Despite the technological and social progress during her 100 years, one part of Sister Marie’s long life stands apart.
"The love that God has for me has been the most important advancement over the years — God’s love and the telephone," she said, laughing. "Even with my sight getting bad and my hearing not as good as it used to be, I can still use a phone."
The Sts. Peter and Paul Parish school decided to do something special for Sister Marie in celebration of her 100 years.
"The wonderful children made me 100 cards for my birthday and every day I'm given a new one," Sister Marie said. "The kids have been so creative with them, so I have some hanging around my door, some in my room, but I'm keeping them all."