February 16, 1928 – November 5, 2017
On August 13, 1944, sixteen-year-old Marian Marie Shelledy entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur at Ilchester, Maryland. The rest is history – the story of a lifelong journey of ever-deepening faith. At the time of her 70th jubilee in our congregation, Marian wrote: “I am deeply grateful to God for his graces, and to the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur for teaching me the Catholic Faith.
Marian was not yet a Catholic when she transferred into 8th grade at St. Aloysius parochial school in Washington (DC). There she had her first encounter with SNDs. “My teacher,” she recalled, “was Sister Bernard Mary, and this was my first experience in a Catholic school.” At her father’s request, the Sisters excused Marian, who was not a Catholic, from taking the religion classes required of other students. But Marian had an inquiring, mind, and seems to have enjoyed “listening in” on Sister Bernard Mary’s religious instructions. What she heard began taking root in the ready soil of her open heart. When she graduated from St. Aloysius, she moved on to two other SND schools. The first was Notre Dame Academy in her own home town, where she decided to join the Catholic Church. She completed her junior and senior years at Trinity Preparatory School (Ilchester, MD), as a boarder. Since the school stood on the same campus as our novitiate, Marian had ample opportunity to observe the SND community in action and at prayer. She set her heart on living the rest of her life as a Sister of Notre Dame.
We do not know what Marian’s parents thought about the radical choices she was making at such a young age, but we have a photo that offers a clue. It shows her in postulant garb on her entrance day. Next to her stands her mother, who was of Jewish descent. Both are smiling broadly. No doubt, the spiritual depth and quiet independence that had led Marian to Catholicism and religious life were balanced by her sensitivity, gentleness and quiet grace as she shared her decision at home. Her admiration and love, not just for her mother, but for the Jewish people as a whole, is reflected in the beautiful petition she included in prayers she herself composed for her Mass of Christian Burial:
For our Jewish brothers and sisters,
that they may continue in faithfulness to God’s covenant
and in love of his name, we pray.
As an SND, Marian was at once true to her own discerning heart and faithful to the vows she had made at her profession. They included a vow of obedience. Year after year Marian accepted teaching assignments that must have sorely tested her patience, endurance and natural desire for perfection. It took a long time for the community to recognize what Marian knew all along: the niche in which she could best help youngsters experience the goodness of God was as a music teacher. The turning point seems to have come with her completion of a Master of Music degree at the Catholic University of America in the 1970s. Her certification by the New York State Music Teachers Association as a teacher of piano soon followed. Like Chaucer’s Clerk, gladly had Marian learned, and gladly would she teach!
Perhaps her happiest years were those she spent in Brooklyn from 1977 to 2005. Soon after her arrival at St. Catherine of Genoa parish there, Marian distributed a notice in English, French and Spanish to parents. Were they interested in having their child learn to read music? If so, they should consider her Keyboard Arts Basic Music Study Program. “This course for group piano lessons,” she explained, would enable students “to read music fluently, to play accurately, and [most importantly!] to enjoy music lessons.” Parents were invited to “an explanation and demonstration of the program, including a free lesson for your child.” How could they resist?
The children came, and Marian blossomed. She even taught 3rd to 6th graders how to compose their own original melodies and add harmony. At their piano recitals, she beamed with pride (as attested in another photo on file!). When our Sisters moved to Holy Family Parish, the piano traveled with them and the lessons continued. Parish liturgies were enriched each Sunday by her skills as organist and choir director. Oh, and by the way: on the side, she mastered the trade of piano tuning, offering that service to SND houses from New York to DC.
When she retired to Villa Julie in 2005, Marian became organist and music minister there. With her move to Mount Notre Dame in 2013, she continued playing for Benediction, at birthday celebrations, in talent shows, and as a member of the bell choir.
Looking back at Marian’s life, we find in the readings she chose for her funeral Mass striking reminders of her deep faith, enduring hope, and self-giving love. They give us a beautiful window into her heart:
We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have gained access by faith
to this grace in which we stand.”
(First reading: Romans 5: 1-5)
He guides me along the right path; he is true to his name.
If I should walk in the valley of darkness, no evil will I fear.
You are there with your crook and your staff; with these you give me comfort.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.
(Gospel: Matthew 5: 1-12)
May Marian’s generous life continue to inspire and challenge us, and may she rest in peace, safe now in the arms of the God she served so well!
Born Marian Marie Shelledy, February 16, 1928, Washington, DC
Parents: Frederick Henry and Maybelle McMullen Shelledy
Brother: Nelson Shelledy (deceased)
Entered Notre Dame August 13, 1944, Ilchester, MD
First Vows: July 28, 1947
Final profession: July 30, 1952
St. Aloysius Parochial School, Washington, DC
Notre Dame Academy (K Street), Washington, DC
Trinity Preparatory School, Ilchester, MD
Bachelor of Arts, Trinity College, Washington, DC. (Major: Music)
Master of Music, The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC
(Major: Piano Pedagogy; Minor: Music Education)
New York State Music Teachers Association (Teacher of Piano)
Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Brooklyn, NY (twice)
Trinity Preparatory School, Ilchester, MD
St. Martin, T Street, Washington, DC
St. Eleanor, Collegeville, PA
St. Ursula, Baltimore, MD
St. Thomas More, Decatur, GA
St. Stephen, Washington, DC
St. Jerome, Hyattsville, MD
Notre Dame High School, Moylan, PA
Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Brooklyn, NY
Blessed Sacrament, Norfolk, VA
St. Catherine of Genoa, Brooklyn, NY (Piano teacher and Choir)
St. Stanislaus, Maspeth, NY
Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians, Queens, NY
Holy Family Parish, Brooklyn, NY (Piano teacher, Organist and Choir)
Villa Julie Residence, Stevenson, MD (2005; Organist)
Mount Notre Dame Health Center, Cincinnati, OH (2013)
Prepared by Mary Ann Cook, SND, with the assistance of Peggy LInahan, SND