Dear Sisters and Associates, Co-Workers, Family, and Friends,
“When your time comes, may you be given every blessing
and shelter that you need.
May there be a beautiful welcome for you in the home that you are going to.”
This excerpt from John O’Donohue’s “Irish Blessing for Death” seemed so very appropriate to whisper at Sister Marietta’s bedside as these last few days unfolded.
Mary Ann Sharkey was born into a family of proud Irish heritage, the middle child, with both an older and a younger brother. Growing-up years were difficult ones, as she wrote in her autobiography: “Like many families after the depression, the family was poor. My father had several strokes and was paralyzed completely on his right side. My mother’s health was very poor most of my life; she died when I was beginning 7th grade. My father never got over her death and died eleven months later. Life was always a very serious business in our home. Our parents were very strict with us, possibly due to their backgrounds and sickness.” It was during 8th grade that Mary Ann began living in a foster home, thus adding two more brothers and one sister to her family of siblings.
Having graduated from Little Flower School in Indianapolis, St. Mary Academy, and Marian College (now University), it was no wonder that Sister Marietta recalled, “Our community of Franciscan Sisters was such a positive influence in my life. How I loved the Sisters who taught me; I wanted to follow in their footsteps.” And follow she did, for many years as an elementary teacher and in later years as a Director of Religious Education. With Marietta’s characteristic love for life, she thoroughly enjoyed both: “How I loved teaching first graders. Teasingly, I used to say that that was because they believed everything I said. Later, as a DRE, what a blessing it has been working with RCIA, parish renewal, sacramental preparations, pastors, principals, teachers, parents, students, and the larger communities.” Upon arrival in Cincinnati, Marietta was instrumental in forming a DRE support group which eventually grew into the Cincinnati Religious Education Association. Peacemaking and global awareness were themes which she inserted throughout her parish religious ed curriculum.
In 2004, while serving as DRE at Assumption Parish in Cincinnati, Sister Marietta facilitated a 4-week visit to the USA for six Palestinian children and their teacher. This proved to be a life- changing experience, awakening all to the suffering and hardship of the Palestinian people. In Marietta’s assessment, “This is the best thing I’ve ever done; it is speaking a word of hope! This certainly is the most Franciscan thing I have ever done in trying to bring more peace in the world for these our brothers and sisters who are suffering so much.” The following year Marietta was able to take part in a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and saw for herself the suffering of the Palestinians. A companion teasingly commented that Marietta practically jumped out of the bus when she saw Suhair, the teacher who had become like a sister to her!
Evidence of her tender heart, Marietta demonstrated special concern for anyone who felt isolated or alone. If anyone thought, however, that Marietta displayed only a serious side, one only had to witness her Irish wit and the glint of mischief in her eye—truly, her Irish eyes were smiling. In euchre, she was a “fierce” competitor, delighting in making risky bids, and loving to win. In sports, the Bengals and the Reds had in Marietta a major cheerleader. Yet, the biggest celebration of all? Why, the “high holy day” of the feast of St. Patrick! While touches of green adorned her room and her wardrobe all year long, the REAL leprechaun appeared as Marietta dressed up each March 17.
We offer our sympathy to Sister Marietta’s family, co-workers, and many friends, as well as to her caregivers in St. Clare Hall. As she herself wrote, “How grateful I am for all who have given me much love, encouragement, support, opportunities, and prayerful presence throughout these many years.” We too offer thanks, Marietta, that you have been for us an Irish blessing—“And until we meet again, May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.”
In loving memory,
Sister Christa Franzer
For the General Council