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Mary Peniston began working as a Security Guard at Providence Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio at its opening in 1971. Mary never married and cared for her mother until she died. She grieved the loss of her mother deeply. It was through that loss that we came to know Mary more personally. Sister Judy Nagy, who also worked at Providence Hospital, began praying with Mary to assist in her grieving. She then invited Mary to be an Associate.
Sister Mary Jacinta Doyle was the Director of the Associate Relationship at that time and came to know Mary. She made first Covenant in December 1994. As part of her Covenant, she wrote that she wanted to share in the life and ministry of the SFP’s by “praying more in order to draw from God the strength to do his will in my life and to obtain the wisdom, guidance, direction and consolation in my daily devotional prayer time. We live the way we pray and we pray the way we live. “ ‘Draw close to God and he will draw close to you’.” [James 4:8]


Mary was searching for more. She grew fond of Sister Mary V. Ellison, who reminded her so much of her mother. Through Sister Mary V., Mary began her preparation to become a Catholic. The Sisters helped her connect with Blessed Sacrament Parish in Kentucky where she participated in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. She made her Profession of Faith at the Easter Vigil, April 15, 1995 in the presence of the parishioners, some of our Sisters, and her brother Paul from Florida. Paul was not Catholic and Mary was very grateful and deeply moved by his presence.
Mary learned of the Secular Franciscan Order through another Associate, Sandy McCoy. Mary made her profession as a Secular Franciscan on September 23, 2001 in the St. Margaret of Cortona Fraternity in Cincinnati, Ohio.


Mary continued her journey. Some Associates are called to make a permanent commitment by 
Covenant to live the Charism of Blessed Frances Schervier. Mary experienced this call in 2005. She stated, “My heart tells me now is the time to make a Permanent Covenant. Being an Associate, being with the Sisters and other Associates, lights up my whole life.” She had participated in many of the programs offered for Sisters and Associates, as well as the monthly days of prayer at Pinecroft House of Peace, attended many Associate Programs, Tri-State Associate Programs, and Congregational Assemblies. After her retirement from Mercy Franciscan Hospital (formerly Providence Hospital), she volunteered at Children’s Hospital as one way to live the Charism of Blessed Frances Schervier. 
She chose the topic, “The Franciscan Way of Life, Including the Four Franciscan Values” as her independent study to deepen her understanding/experience. She put this together in a loose-leaf book with other reflections and remembrances of her time as an Associate as well as her experience in being a member of the Secular Franciscan Order. Joining the Catholic Church was a significant part of her life journey and is included in her book. She did the book as a legacy to her family, hoping it would help them understand her conversion.


Finally the day arrived. Mary made her Permanent Covenant on August 27, 2006. She wrote: “United with all the Associates, I commit myself to share in the life and ministry of the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor by praying for all Sisters and Associates and for vocations. In addition, I commit myself to share in the healing charism – because we are “All” made in the “Image of God” [Gen. 1:27] whose Love for Us is Infinite [1 John 4:7-8]. Heavenly Father, grant to me this same Infinite Love for others.” My prayer: “O God, as an Associate I ask you to help me grow in Love and commitment to you and to the vision and mission of Blessed Frances. Amen.”


Mary continued to relate with us though she was spending more time in Texas. When she returned to Kentucky, she would participate in activities. Then it became more difficult for her to get around; her breathing became more difficult. After trips to the doctor and tests, she was diagnosed as needing a heart valve replacement – then the tumor on her kidney was diagnosed. It was a treasure for Sister Mary Jacinta when her sister Alice, her niece Jae and Jae’s son Andrew, and her nephew Tom visited with Sister Mary Jacinta before they took Mary to Texas for the last time in November.
Mary had surgery at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX on January 11 for the removal of her right kidney, ovary and fallopian tube, as well as a stomach tumor. After recuperation, she returned to her niece’s home in Houston. On January 30 she returned to MD Anderson to have the staples removed. Mary sent a note on February 10 to thank everybody for the cards and prayers, saying that they all meant a lot. Some members of her niece’s church (of the Latter Day Saints), went to their home to pray for her.
The following week Mary experienced much pain. Her niece took her to the emergency room. She was released with medication for pain, but she did no better and returned to the hospital on Friday. A C-scan of her abdomen showed that the mass had returned and was very aggressive. The option was given for more chemo or hospice. The niece asked what the Catholic Church offers its members at a time like this. She then contacted the Catholic Chaplain, who provided the Anointing of the Sick and brought Mary the Eucharist.
At 9:00 PM on February 26, Sister Mary Jacinta received a call. Mary’s other kidney had shut down completely. She was in a hospice room, with her sister Alice wanting to remain with her. Jae shared the last day’s journey, and asked Sister Mary Jacinta to call Mary. Her sister could answer the phone for her.


Sister Mary Jacinta called Mary and here is the conversation: She had previously sent word that God was calling her home. I told her I had received that message. She said “Yes.” I shared that I had heard that it is those who have preceded us in death that are there to help us in our transition. I reminded her that her mother would be there to welcome her. She responded “Yes.” Then I shared, “And God is there to welcome you with His all loving embrace, Mary!” She answered, “Yes!” “And Mother Frances is there too. You are her daughter, as an Associate, and she will be there too, to welcome you.” Then I asked her, ”Mary, when you see Mother Frances, will you ask her something for me?” She said, “Yes.” “Will you ask her to be with us and help us through our Chapter?” She answered, “Yes!"
Mary went home to God at 6:00 AM the next morning, February 27, 2013.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Sister Mary Jacinta Doyle, SFP

                                                                                                                                                                                                     published may 20, 2013