Sister Mary Buckley SNDdeN (formerly Mary Ellen)
August 15, 1925 – July 17, 2019
“Give thanks to the Lord, who is good, whose love endures forever…” 1 Chronicles 16:34
Raised in a loving family of Irish descent in Chicago’s St. Peter Canisius Parish, Mary was the oldest child and first daughter born to Michel and Mary Buckley. At her parish school, Mary met the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. She was a naturally inquisitive and very bright student who loved her teachers. Mary would run errands for the Sisters after school and enjoyed the time she spent with the Sisters outside of class. She watched with interest as the Sisters started a new high school for girls in two classrooms at St. Peter Canisius while constructing a permanent home for Notre Dame High School on Mango Avenue. Mary attended Notre Dame and was a proud member of its third graduating class.
Mary became acquainted with religious life at an early age because of her Dominican aunt. However, when her love of God and desire to devote herself to God’s work through teaching crystalized into a call to religious life, it was to the Sisters who had taught her that she turned. She, with six of her classmates, entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur the summer after graduation. She was given the name Sister Mary Ellen and was known as such until 1969.
With the rest of her peers, Mary was prepared to teach. She later said she “…received excellent preparation for the teaching profession in a number of different fields.” Most of those fields were in the sciences. Her first year of teaching found her juggling preparations for Chemistry, Algebra and Biology classes. The next year Mary taught elementary students for the first and last time. Her ability to articulate complex concepts in ways high school girls could easily understand, her creativity and her ease with so many different subjects made high schools the natural place for Mary to serve in formal education. She taught various Math courses, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, General Sciences and Religion for 43 years. 31 of those years were spent at her beloved Notre Dame High School, Chicago.
While teaching, Mary also served in various administrative positions, as Department Chair, and as moderator of the NDHS Alumnae and of the Service Club. She was the epitome of a ‘life-long learner’ as she attended workshops and summer courses including a two week Space Program, Notre Dame Education Conferences, and a sabbatical program at Weston Jesuit School of Theology. Mary also taught beyond the walls of the Notre Dame High School. For eight years she taught in an educational program maintained by the Cook County Jail under the auspices of the Catholic Chaplain. Mary also taught remedial math in the summers to 7th and 8th graders. She participated in adult faith formation programs at the local parish, and regularly took Communion to the parishioners who were homebound or hospitalized.
In 1992, upon returning from her sabbatical, Mary became an ESL teacher in the Adult Education program at a local college. She delighted in the diversity of students as she helped people from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico and Poland become proficient in English. Mary’s already broad world-view continued to expand as she learned from the experiences of those she taught. A teacher to her toes, when it became necessary to cut back on the classes she taught at the college, Mary volunteered one afternoon a week tutoring Spanish-speaking women at the Dominican Literacy Center. She continued to look for opportunities to tutor when she moved to Mount Notre Dame Health Center in 2009.
All of Mary’s religious life was lived in larger communities. She could have ‘gotten lost in the crowd’, but her interest in the world around her started with those closest to her. Mary had a knack for being able to succinctly describe the gifts of other community members that could only come from taking a sincere interest in each. Mary took an active interest in happenings around the Ohio Province and the Congregation. She always had something worthwhile to add to the discussion, and at the same time, she thirsted for input from those around her, always striving to look deeper and beyond the current moment. Mary participated in opportunities for on-going formation and especially appreciated TEP and SING discussion groups. She kept up on world news and was a gifted conversationalist. Mary loved good books, especially poetry and historical novels. She enjoyed the piano, visiting art museums, attending concerts, and the theatre. In Chicago, she kept active through Aqua-dynamics and Tai Chi classes. In Cincinnati, she tried Yoga and Balance with Grace classes. Mary enjoyed traveling. Her trip to Ireland, where the beauty of the sea coast touched her deeply, remained a precious memory for the rest of her life. She was fun-loving and her sense of humor balanced her apparent seriousness. Mary enjoyed trying new things (like skiing) and was an avid sports fan (go Irish!).
Mary felt blest to have lived in Chicago for so many years because during that time she was near her family and able to be a part of family celebrations. She was able to attend the weddings of all but one of her nieces and nephews, and she celebrated each addition to the next generations. After moving to Cincinnati, Mary kept in touch with regular phone calls, emails and letters. She delighted in visits from family members and shared family news with her community.
Mary looked back on the changes during her lifetime in the Church and religious life as turbulent, yet positive, experiences that brought with them opportunities for growth and deepening of relationships. She said the Second Vatican Council “really brought fresh air into the Church…I became acquainted with the latest writings in the field of theology and religious life, besides those in my own field of study in teaching.” Mary also saw the changes providing opportunities to grow in relationship with her Sisters in community “as well as lay people we meet along the way.” She saw the changes continuing and said, “I am very much in admiration of the present Pope and what he has been doing in the Church. If I were to live longer, I would look forward to some of the changes that would be coming in the Church.”
As her Sisters, beloved family and friends gather to celebrate Mary’s life, we rejoice in the many ways she made God’s goodness known to us. We thank God for the gift she has been to so many. We celebrate with Mary her journey into resurrected life and the joy with which she is exploring new depths of relationship with God and others in the Communion of Saints. We can hear her echoing Paul’s words as she prays for each of us:
May God, through the Holy Spirit, strengthen you in your inner self. May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith. May you be rooted and grounded in love. May you comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ. May you be filled with all the fullness, and goodness, of God. (adapted from Ephesians 3:14-19)
- Born August 15, 1925 in Chicago, Illinois
- Parents: Michael Buckley (born in Chicago, Illinois) and Mary Whitty (born in Chicago, Illinois)
- Siblings: Therese Buckley Mulvihill, John Buckley
- Baptized August 30, 1925 at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Chicago, Illinois
- Confirmed October, 1935 at St. Peter Canisius Church, Chicago, Illinois
- Entered August 16, 1943 at Mt. Notre Dame
- First Profession: January 2, 1946
- Final Profession: August 13, 1951
- St. Peter Canisius School, Chicago Illinois, 1939
- Notre Dame High School, Chicago, Illinois, 1943
- Bachelor of Arts, Our Lady of Cincinnati College, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1948
- Master of Arts, Catholic University, Washington DC, 1957
- Master of Science, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana, 1964
- 1948-1949 Mt. Notre Dame Academy, Reading, Ohio
- 1949-1950 Cardinal Pacelli School, Cincinnati, Ohio
- 1950-1951 Notre Dame High School, Hamilton, Ohio
- 1951-1960 Notre Dame High School, Chicago, Illinois
- 1960-1966 Mt. Notre Dame Academy/High School, Reading, Ohio
- 1966-1969 Summit Country Day School, Cincinnati, Ohio
- 1969-1991 Notre Dame High School, Chicago, Illinois
- 1991-1992 Weston School of Theology, Cambridge, Massachusetts
- 1992-2005 Wright College, Chicago, Illinois
- 2005-2009 Dominican Literacy Center, Chicago, Illinois
- 2009 2012 Tutor/Volunteer, Mt. Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio
- 2012-2019: Community Service, Mount Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio
Died at Mt. Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio on July 17, 2019
Prepared by Sister Kim Dalgarn, SNDdeN