Sister Maura Guilfoyle, SNDdeN

Sister Maura Guilfoyle, SNDdeN

February 1, 1918 — August 9, 2012


Patricia Mary was born on February 1, 1918 in Birmingham, Michigan, the daughter of William and Clara (nee Aren's) Guilfoyle. She was baptized at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Pontiac, Michigan, on March 17, 1918. Patricia was confirmed in Our Lady of Good Hope Church, in Miamisburg, Ohio, on June 5, 1931. She graduated from the parish school in June of 1932. Her high school years were spent at Julienne High School in Dayton, Ohio. Patricia's association with and admiration for the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur led her to enter their postulancy in Reading Ohio, on August 2, 1936. When Patricia became a novice on January 30, 1937, she received for her religious name Sister Maura, and was known by that name for the rest of her 76 years in Notre Dame. Sister Maura's first profession occurred on January 25, 1939 and her final vows on August 13, 1944.

Sister Maura began teaching third-graders at Cardinal Pacelli School in Cincinnati from 1940 to 1942. From 1942 to 1947, she taught second, third and fourth graders and even kindergarten children in Columbus at St. Joseph Academy. During the years of 1958 to 1975, Sister was both principal and teacher of seventh and eighth graders at St. Stephen's school, Hamilton; principal and teacher of eighth graders at St. Susanna, Mason, 1962 to 1963; and principal of Ascension school in Dayton. At Ascension she was also the superior of the community. From 1969 to 1975, Sister Maura guided the merger of St. Stephen and Queen of Peace schools which became the Catholic Central community school in Hamilton.

During her career of 29 years of service to Catholic education as teacher, principal and superior of the sisters, Maura never wavered in her determination to be as prepared as she could for her ministry. She spent many years as a student herself. Sister obtained her BS in Education from the Athenaeum, and a Masters in Education from Xavier University. Sister also attended summer programs at Ohio State University in Columbus; The University of Dayton; Miami University, Ohio; Barat College, Lake Forest Illinois and St. Catherine College in Racine Wisconsin. Courses and workshops were an excellent mix of update in Theology and Biblical studies as well as current educational theories. But always the guiding principle for Maura’s teaching was the Charism of St. Julie. For Maura the challenge was to proclaim this Charism "How good is the good God" in many ways. And proclaim it she did!

A sabbatical year spent in the Credo Program held at Gonzaga University, Spokane, Washington, was just what Sister Maura needed to catch her breath. That year of study enabled her to undertake two new challenging pastoral ministries. The first occurred at St. Victor's Parish in Calumet City, Illinois. It lasted for a decade and what Maura accomplished in those years was remarkable. An interesting coincidence occurred when Maura was leaving the parish. She was also celebrating her silver jubilee. It gave the parish an opportunity to say good bye with a wonderful celebration.

During her years at St. Victor's Maura had directed her attention to teaching and directing lay volunteers in the parish. So much of her time those years was spent with the laity that one might wonder if this interest came naturally to Maura. She may well have grown up with an appreciation of the role of the laity long before Vatican II. Her father had assisted Msgr.Thiel in founding the layman's retreat movement in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati many years before.

At the time of her departure from St. Victor's a very interesting evaluation of Maura’s ministry occurred in the parish bulletin entitled “From the Pastor's Desk”. Father Leo T. Mahon recalled how he and his assistant pastor had agreed to hire Sister for a position in the parish team sight unseen. From Gonzaga, Maura had written to him when she learned that the Sisters of Notre Dame were returning to the parish. She and her letter convinced them she would be the right and very valuable person to have on the parish team.

Father wrote. “It is now 10 years later. Did we make a mistake? All of us know the answer to that question. St.Victor has shone brightly in our time, a principal reason and shining star has been Sister Maura. Deeply spiritual, very friendly and extremely hard-working, Sister Maura has been the kind of person and nun who makes all of us proud to be Catholics. It would be nigh impossible to list all her accomplishments here but I shall endeavour to give a partial list.

She has directed the Jubilee weekends and given directed retreats. She has faithfully visited the sick both in hospitals and at home. Further, she has trained others for that ministry and our Eucharistic ministers as well. Her work for the poor has been nothing short of phenomenal. Who will ever know how many bills she has paid, how many clothes and food she has lovingly distributed? Her crowning achievement in the ministry to the needy has been the establishment of the Calumet City Resources.
Sister has worked for 10 years among us - so many hours that she has made a shambles out of the 40 - hour work week. Yet she has always been faithful to prayer, above all to the daily celebration of the Eucharist. No matter how busy she was Maura always had time to give all the rest of us a smile and an encouraging word."

Next Maura turned her attention to Hamilton where she went to work her unique practice of whole hearted immersion in ministry to the poor and needy just as she had given her same undivided attention while at St. Victor’s. She became actively involved in the Christ Renews the Parish. She served as spiritual director to many. She visited nursing homes. She spent time with those in the parish who were homebound. She directed retreats and evenings of reflection in the parish. She found time to produce a course of studies for the lay volunteers in the parish entitled “That Ministry of Care.” It was her way of enabling the parishioners to participate actively in the parish outreach programs and to do whatever they did effectively and with great care as they visited or served God’s poor. Maura had a special touch of caring and concern for the volunteers as she prepared them to replace her.

When Sister Therese Del Genio invited Maura to work with her as a volunteer at PADS (Public Action to Deliver Services), she accepted readily. She wanted to have one more chance to make a shambles of a 40 - hour work week. It proved to be a great challenge as the needs were so great. PADS had been founded to be of service to the poor and homeless on the Chicago streets. Maura became a special Sister volunteer in this ministry. She was given charge of three large rooms filled with clothing. She became responsible for organizing all the donations which came to pads. Before long the rooms looked more like a department store, with items of clothing neatly arranged according to size, color and the needs of clients.

This she did with great care and thoughtfulness for their needs. They were people of God to whom Maura wanted to show God’s goodness. How did she do it? Did they need a special something to go for a job interview? She found just the right thing. Did they need a new piece of clothing because something had worn-out? She always found other items of clothing from which they might choose. Did someone perhaps need a new coat to deal with Chicago winters? She found the warmest one on the racks. The challenges connected with this ministry introduced Maura herself to an even deeper realization God’s goodness in those who visited PADS.

In 1996, Maura went on a pilgrimage to Julie land. For her it must've been just the right moment in her life to get in touch with St. Julie in a very special way as she visited places which spoke to her of Julie. Since it occurred in her last hands-on ministry to the poor in PADS Chicago, the pilgrimage certainly gave her new insights into the Charism of St. Julie who told her first Sisters of Notre Dame they were to be for the poor only the poor. Sister continued her ministry for the next six years with new joy and gratitude. What made Maura’s ministries in which she had worked so hard was the fact that she did so while struggling for many years with brittle diabetes.

Maura pursued a number of hobbies with great interest. Sewing, water coloring, reading books whose titles all indicated her great interest in many genres gave her real joy. One hobby which became something of a trademark was the lovely table mats she created from greeting cards from all seasons and events. Her last one was a study of water scenes featuring a lighthouse, several smaller boats, and several imaginary sea animals. The day before her death, she expressed a desire to get back to cutting from cards just the right ones for new mats. After all the money which they earned was for the missions and God’s poor!

Sister Maura came to the Mount Notre Dame Health Center in 2002. The word retirement was not in her vocabulary. Her ministry would now be to her Sisters. She reached out with services to them in many ways. Did a sister need a letter written? Did they need to know the latest community news? Did they need some clothing repaired? Did they need a fourth player for a card game? Did a Sister need someone to watch the news with her? All of these kind sisterly acts Maura did over and over again.

During Maura’s retirement years at Mount Notre Dame, one of her favourite roles was to prepare special prayer services for community evening prayer. This flowed easily from a lifelong practice of preparing prayers and her spiritual reading in former ministries. They were used throughout the year for special liturgical feast days or some community event or even for a national holiday. November 2 seemed to be number one on Maura’s list however. She spent time to find different ways to arrange the pictures of the sisters who had died during the previous year. She always found the best frame for each one. She went out of her way to ask any of the sisters’ friends to read a short eulogy for each one and light a candle in the sister’s memory. Sister Maura and the prayer service she would have prepared will be missed this November 2. Someone else will have to remember Maura in a special way and be grateful for her presence among us for all those years.

Even as her sisters grieve for their loss of Sister Maura we offer our prayers to the members of her family and many friends who will know the same sorrow at losing her. But God will wipe away our tears. She is near the good God whom she served so well. Saint Julie must have greeted her already as one of her spiritual daughters. Is it permitted us to wonder just how Maura will make a shambles in an eternal forever?

Sister Louanna Orth, SNDdeN
August 9, 2012