Sister Mary Barnard, CSC

(April 18, 1918 - April 4, 2013)

Word had been received of the death of Sister Mary Barnard, who died at 12:39 p.m. on Thursday, April 4, 2013, in Saint Mary’s Convent, Notre Dame, Indiana.

The essence of Sister Mary Barnard’s character and personality can be summed up in the unique title the caregivers on her floor in Saint Mary’s Convent gave her, “Oh most gracious one!” Who could ask for higher praise, especially from those whose responsibility it is to tend daily to the basic needs of the sisters in their care?

Accolades abound from everyone when Sister Mary’s name is mentioned. Sister Virginia Marie MacNeil had Sister Mary as her first-grade teacher and she waxed eloquent in declaring that all of her small charges thought she was an angel. In her beautiful mother-like presence Sister Mary loved each child as her own and dealt with everyday problems in a calm peace-filled manner. It is easy to see why she was such a successful primary-grade teacher. Thirty-three years of her ministry were spent nurturing these young children with her loving guidance in the elementary schools of the East.

Though teaching the primary grades fit Sister Mary’s personality and innate talents, her high intelligence caught the attention of the congregation’s administration and she was asked pursue a degree in chemistry. Sister Mary obediently left the primary grades to respond to this request. She worked diligently to obtain her PhD in science and attained success, receiving her degree in 1955 from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

Making good use of this advanced degree, Sister Mary spent the next 15 years teaching chemistry, biology and physics at the high-school level. She also taught chemistry and physics at Dunbarton College, in Washington, D.C. and at Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana.

Then in 1969 Sister Mary was delighted to return to the elementary-school level where she, once again, cherished and encourage her beloved little ones. Eventually she transitioned from full-time teaching to tutoring and took on other related support roles to help out at Holy Cross School in Garrett Park, Maryland. In 1994, after almost 55 years of teaching, Sister Mary retired to Saint Angela Hall, Kensington, Maryland and then to Saint Mary’s Convent, Notre Dame, Indiana, where she embraced her new ministry of praying for the needs of the congregation and its benefactors.

Being retired gave Sister Mary the opportunity to indulge in one of her favorite activities: reading. Biographies were chosen most often, and she kept herself informed about world events by reading current news magazines and watching the news on television. She loved anything that stimulated her mind and challenged her thinking. When she no longer could see well enough to read, she spent much of her time visiting with sisters on the floor, where she showed compassion and was an attentive listener.

Sister Mary’s rosary was a constant companion — whether visiting or sitting quietly, it was always clasped in her hand. Our Lady must have walked hand in hand with her on Thursday when she went home to God. May Sister Mary rest in peace.


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