Remembering Sister Mary Louise
Sister Mary Louise Foley, F.M.I. ’59, who died Oct. 19, 2021, was small in stature but a giant for the impact she made on the University of Dayton community.
Mary and I became friends in the 1950s when we were both studying to become teachers. I was a Marianist brother in training, and Mary was a lay person. Even then I recognized her gentle kindness and extraordinary spirituality.
Mary was a Marianist sister for almost 60 years. After having many major responsibilities in the order, including provincial, she returned to UD in 1991 to work in Campus Ministry. Mary served in that capacity until illness forced her retirement.
Mary tirelessly worked in established programs but also started new initiatives to serve the university community. She created a program to counsel and support pregnant UD students, organized and directed faculty/staff retreats, created a program that paired incoming first-year students who were considered vulnerable with faculty and staff. This one-on-one relationship really supported these students and allowed them not only to survive but to also thrive. Mary worked for a number of years as campus minister of the law school reaching out to faculty, staff and students.
“Like Jesus’ mother Mary, you pondered things in our heart but while trusting in the ultimate love of God.”
The former dean of the School of Law, Lisa Kloppenberg, reflected on Mary, “You were a constant, quiet, cheerful presence at all of the law school service activities. Mostly I appreciated your faith, steady even in the face of anger, bitterness, evil and cruelty. Like Jesus’ mother Mary, you pondered things in our heart but while trusting in the ultimate love of God.”
Mary also formed a prayer group of faculty and staff whom she hosted monthly at the sisters’ home on Sawmill. Mary invited me and others to serve on an advisory committee to assist her in some of her projects. She hosted the meetings with a delightful lunch she always prepared. When we met, we learned that Mary had done much of the preparation work herself. She was tireless and indefatigable. Mary really understood the Marianist charism, and all of these efforts were guided by his spirit.
And through all the activity, the virtue that stood out was her humility. In all her activities Mary was always very much “under the radar.” Very few knew all she was doing. Mary was never about herself. Sister Laura Lemming reflected at Mary’s funeral that when Laura was a postulant, the order was preparing for the vow ceremony of a newly professed sister, and family and friends were attending. Despite Mary being provincial at the time, the two of them cleaned bathrooms all day in preparation. True humbleness and a servant’s heart guided Mary in all she did.
With no exaggerations, Mary was the most saintly person I have encountered: a humble servant who quietly and continually sought new and innovative ways of helping others. All of us who had the privilege of knowing her were truly blessed. God bless you and keep you, dear Mary.