Marie Nelson, CSJ

We remember her in the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn.

 March 1, 1938 – October 4, 2019

 Sister Katherine Marie Nelson was born on March 1st 1938 to Viola and Charles Nelson.  She had one sister Barbara, whose name she took when she received the habit.   Marie (Nellie) ministered at elementary schools in Newton, Franklin and Dedham before expressing her love of music through teaching and playing the piano and organ. 

 This lifelong love of music is reflected in her selection of Sirach, the reading we will hear shortly, which speaks of “singing praise with all her heart, making sweet melody with her voice.” Music was for Marie, a way to hear God and praise God, and she used this gift to touch many young lives. 

 In Marie’s room at Bethany, she had two pictures hanging that told us she knew the tenderness of God.  One is of Joseph and the toddler Jesus cuddling – which she used for her 50th jubilee.  The other is of Jesus, throwing his head back in laughter – a joyous Jesus – who knew how to laugh – most likely because of an encounter with someone. 

 As Sisters of St. Joseph, we believe that “relationship is at the heart of mission.”  Marie’s life tells of how meaningful this was to her.  Her God was a God who cuddled, who laughed, who knew how to be intimate, close, tender.

Marie found her way to this God, perhaps through her own personal health struggle during her first year teaching, when she was diagnosed with MS.  She was perhaps 20? Even during this crisis, she trusted her call to be a Sister of St. Joseph.  And in a move unusual for those times, the Congregation affirmed her call, and though delayed a year, Marie made her final vows as a Sister of St. Joseph. 

Sometimes our yes is difficult – and the faithfulness we seek is challenging.  Sometimes our trust in the faithfulness of God is put to the test.  Yet, the story of Sister Marie’s life is one of faithfulness- no matter what.

From wherever she was, and in whatever circumstance she experienced, Marie found a way to give.  Unable to drive, Marie took the RIDE, with its circuitous routes to Dorchester to work with Fr. Bill Francis and to Boston to minister at St. Francis House.  Her desire for God to use her, as she was, was fulfilled in so many ways.  Her students, her family – of whom she was so proud, her strong circle of friends, her family at Bethany – staff and residents- and beyond felt not only the impact of her loving and prayerful presence, but the impact of her witness of faithfulness, courage and trust in God’s goodness.

 What do any of us hope for our lifetime – that we will make an impact, that it will matter that we lived, and that God will have used us – that we will have let God use us –

The evidence of Marie’s impact is in the multitude of stories shared from her earliest days to her last, from the tears of her nieces and nephews, her friends and the 4th floor at Bethany, from all she taught us about courage in the face of fear, hope in the midst of daily struggle, gratitude despite fragility.

Shortly after Marie died, the power of her healing presence at Bethany and in her family was palpable.  She will live forever in the memories of all the good she did, and all the love she shared from wherever she let herself be led by her tender God.  Rest in peace, our beloved sister.

 Given by Betsy Conway, CSJ

October 9, 2019