Sister Mary of the Rosary, OP passed away on Monday, August 24, the feast of St. Bartholomew, at the age of 89 and after 70 years of religious life.
Born Lalia Ilivia Jones on September 2, 1925, Sister was raised in Chicago where at the age of 6 she converted to the Catholic Faith after witnessing the reverence at a Catholic Mass. At age 18 she officially entered the Church. Desiring to serve God as a cloistered nun “like the Little Flower,” she entered the Dominican Monastery of St. Jude on March 24, 1945. The monastery had been founded as a new, interracial community on August 17, 1944, only little over six months earlier; although other young women joined before she did, Sister Mary of the Rosary was the first to enter and persevere. She was our pioneer Sister, part of the history of our monastery for all the past 70 years of our existence.
Over the years Sister served the community in many different ways. At various times she held the positions of Subprioress, Sacristan, and Chantress, spending many years as organist in addition to joining the rest of the Sisters in cooking, cleaning, sewing, and the other routine duties of monastic life. She had a great love of the Holy Rosary, a cheerful spirit, and a joyful simplicity in living her vocation as a Dominican Nun and Guard of Honor for Our Lady. She took special delight in singing our Dominican chant at Mass and the Divine Office. During the last years of her life she kept active as much as she could, finally finding her main job in helping fill in odd moments “on guard” at our Perpetual Rosary and Adoration. She would tell our young Sisters, “It’s been the best life.”
After two weeks in the hospital, blessed with the sacramental care of our priests, Sister Mary of the Rosary returned to the monastery on the evening of Monday, August 24. She passed away peacefully just a few hours later, surrounded by Mother and the Sisters singing the Salve Regina as is the cherished tradition in our Order. For her funeral a Requiem Mass in the Extraordinary Form was sung by Fr. Den Irwin of St. Martin of Tours in Troy, with Fr. Patrick Driscoll of Holy Spirit Parish in Montgomery as homilist and Msgr. Charles Troncale of St. Vincent de Paul in Tallassee in attendance. It was a beautiful ceremony accompanied by an outpouring of gratitude, affection, and sympathy by family and friends. Sister is buried in our monastery cemetery.
Although we miss Sister’s presence with us, we are so grateful to Our Lord that she was able to live such a full monastic life up until the end. As we offer our prayers for the repose of her soul, we have confidence that Our Lady will bring the soul of her dear Guard of Honor into the joy of Heaven soon, if she is not there already. May her soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.