Sr. Mary Ferguson, C.S.J. passed away on Saturday, April 25, 2011, a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet since March 19, 1937.
Up to the last few years of her life, Sister Mary was a great reader. In her free time, when she wasn’t out walking, or driving around the Northwest with her friend Sr. Anne Josephine in her big red car, or baking for the hospital Auxiliary bake sales, you could find her in her big chair reading. She was a writer, too, in touch with her family and friends.
Sister Mary was born in St. Joseph’s Hospital in San Diego to Francis Joseph Ferguson and Mary Isabel Davies. Her father, a civil engineer, was working for the Southern Pacific Railroad east of San Diego when he encountered the Davies family living down on the border in Campo, and married the youngest of the four daughters, Estella. After their son Francis was born, Estella died of spinal meningitis. Several years later, Joseph married another of the daughters, Isabel, and settled in Campo. When their daughter was born and joined her half-brother Francis, they named her Catherine.
After she finished grammar school, her parents came to two conclusions: 1) she needed to learn more about her religion, and 2) her carefree, tomboy life required some refinement. So, at great financial sacrifice, they enrolled her as a boarder at Our Lady of Peace Academy in San Diego. She soon admired the wonderful women who were her teachers and friends. The blend of fun, dedication and serious learning of these women unwittingly inspired and directed her to the choice of religious life as a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Catherine entered the community at St. Mary’s Academy in Los Angeles on September 18, 1936, and at her reception on March 19, 1937, received the name of Sister Francis Joseph. She made her first vows on March 19, 1939, and her final profession on August 15, 1942. Later, in 1968, she changed her religious name to Sister Mary.
For the next 31 years, Mary ministered as teacher and frequently principal in all areas of the Los Angeles Province. One of her happiest missions was at St. Joseph’s Academy in Prescott, Arizona, where she taught 7th and 8th grade and “participated in all the aspects of the life of first through twelfth grade students, both boarders and day pupils, for five wonderful years.
In September 1977, she enrolled in the CORPUS program at Seattle University, which included Clinical Pastoral Education with clinical experience at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tacoma, Washington. This was a year of “firsts” and radical changes in her life — living in a college dorm, working in a hospital, and experiencing the beauty of the great Northwest, and the exacting challenge of college classes. She became certified by the National Association of Catholic Chaplains, and served as staff chaplain at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. In 1983, the opportunity to minister to the patients at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Pasco became available, and she joined the community there.
Sister Mary served at Lourdes Health Network for 23 years as chaplain, then director of the Pastoral Care Department. A generation of patients, employees, administrators, and parishioners of St. Patrick’s Parish remembers her as a professional and loving presence in their lives. Even after she gave up the responsibility of Director of Pastoral Care, Mary continued to visit employees and patients at Lourdes and remained an active member of Lourdes hospital community.
In 2006, her declining health led Mary to make the decision to move to Los Angeles and become a member of Holy Family Community. She had so much to say goodbye to when she left Pasco — her walks and picnics every Friday at the river, her many friends in the Tri-Cities, and the frequent visits with her “cluster”—the sisters in the Northwest. In her last years, Mary suffered from a tragic debilitating disease which gradually took away her ability to read and write, and finally even her power to speak.
May our dear Mary finally rest safely and in peace.