Written on: August 1, 2016
The following reflection was shared by Sister Jean Liston, GNSH at the Memorial Mass for Sister Mary Denis Woods, Saturday July 30, 2016.
Today’s Scripture readings present us with an abundance of challenges. They give us clarity on how to be a faithful disciple. Sister Mary Denis was a faithful disciple. I’ve selected three excerpts from today’s Scripture readings that describe how Sister Mary Denis lived her life
In the first reading from the Book of Ecclestiases, the author is giving us a description of what is meaningful. We hear the words,” one who has labored with wisdom, knowledge and skill.”
The responsorial psalm, Psalm 90, is “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” In order to do that we must “Listen for God’s voice and number our days aright.
In the Gospel of Luke we are reminded to focus on what matters to God and not be blinded by earthly treasures.
How did Sr. Mary Denis live these challenges?
With “wisdom, knowledge, and skill,” Sister Mary Denis labored for 56 years as an educator She taught in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Georgia. For 33 of those 56 years she served as an elementary school principal. She ministered at St. Canicus School in Mahoney City, Our Lady of the Assumption School in Strafford, Pennsylvania, St. Leo’s School in Corona, NY. Through her studies she was prepared for these responsibilities. She studied education at D’Youville College, Villanova University, Siena College and the College of Notre Dame in Maryland. She held a Bachelors Degree in History and a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration.
Following her years as a principal Sr. Mary Denis spent 5 years at Our Lady of Fatima School and 6 years at Blessed Sacrament School, her alma mater. At Blessed Sacrament, both she and her sister, Sr. Michael Marie, also a graduate of Blessed Sacrament, served as librarians and oversaw numerous school projects. They interacted with the school community daily and imparted their wisdom and knowledge to students, teachers, and parents.
While Sister Mary Denis’s accomplishments were outstanding, of much more importance to her was her intimate relationship with God. She “listened to God’s voice and numbered her days aright.” Sister Mary Denis was a faith-filled person who nourished her faith through the living of her Baptismal promises and by adhering to the Constitutions of the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart. She was devoted to the Eucharist, made daily holy hours and immersed herself in the spiritual writings of the mystics.
All of us remember her sitting outside at the Motherhouse doing her spiritual reading. Often she was reading a book by Thomas Merton.
Sister Mary Denis enjoyed teaching others to pray. She led groups of residents at D’Youville Manor and St. Joseph’s Manor in the recitation of the Rosary. She brought comfort to others by assuring them of a remembrance in her prayers. Her prayer for the intentions of others was not just a one-time request. She continued to ask God’s intercession and would ask you weeks later if God had granted your prayer request.
I know this from personal experience. My brother has been an invalid for over 15 years. Every time I met Sr. Mary Denis she would ask how my brother was doing and reassure me she was praying for him.
Sister Mary Denis was a dedicated and devoted women of prayer. She “ listened for God’s voice and followed God’s guidance.”
In the last line of Luke’s Gospel, we are reminded to focus on what “matters to God and not on earthly treasures.”
Sister Mary Denis knew that people mattered to God. And so, people also mattered to her. She loved her family and they loved her. Her sisters, Sr. Michael Marie, Sr. Mary Terence, Connie, and her brothers Edward and Michael had a special place in her heart. Her many nieces and nephews and their children were at the top of her prayer list. She was always interested in their activities.
She became an expert at making computer greeting cards and sending them to the people she loved. She had a unique creation for every occasion. Everyone here has probably received one of her special cards.
Sister Mary Denis was always a very active member of her Grey Nun Family. She participated in all discussions and congregational meetings and offered wise counsel. She served on committees and was always available to help her sisters, whether it was washing dishes, setting tables, and even baking delicious cakes. If you ever visited Blessed Sacrament Convent, you probably had a piece of her German Chocolate Cake! She was a faithful example of Marguerite d’Youville’s instruction, “Everyone must know we never refuse to serve.”
In the 71st year of her religious life, God welcomed Sister Mary Denis Woods to her eternal reward. We shall all miss her but know her love and care for us will increase. May she rest in God’s peace.
To contribute a memorial donation in Sister Mary Denis Woods’ memory, please click here