Sister Marilla, CSC
(Mary Marie Dyer)
September 3, 1920—May 9, 2020
Entered the Sisters of the Holy Cross from Salt Lake City, Utah on January 30, 1944
Initial profession of vows on August 15, 1946
Mary Marie Dyer was the oldest of three children of Herbert Clinton Dyer, a rancher, and Nellie McRae, a homemaker. Born on September 3, 1920 in Kemmerer, Wyoming, Mary Dyer was quick to note that her birthplace was the original headquarters of J.C. Penney Company and one of its first J.C. Penney department stores. Years later, as Sister Marilla, she was both teacher during the week and the ever-practical convent stewardess on Saturdays who attended to errands, managed the house accounts, and drove other sisters to do their shopping.
When Mary was seven years old, the Dyer family moved first to Idaho and then settled in Utah. She first met Holy Cross sisters at Saint Joseph Grade School in Ogden. North of Salt Lake City, Ogden was described in the 1930’s as the center of Catholic culture in the State of Utah, not to mention the provincial house of the Western Province of the Sisters of the Holy Cross.
Prior to entering the Congregation, Mary Dyer attended courses at Wyoming University and taught school in Alto, Wyoming. She returned to Ogden in the early 1940’s and was a supervisor at the Army Supply Depot during World War II. Having a high sense of responsibility and civic duty at 23 years old, she felt she needed to ask permission of her boss to leave a job devoted to the war effort before entering the convent for even greater service. She lived 99 years, more than 73 of them as a vowed woman religious.
Her brief exposure to teaching in Wyoming was a prelude to her teaching ministry as a Sister of the Holy Cross, which spanned 47 years in seven Western states. Sister graduated from Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana with a Bachelor degree in 1947 and completed her Master degree in 1965 from Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles, California. Sister Marilla wrote in an autobiographical profile, that her greatest joy was her involvement in education on the elementary and secondary levels as teacher and administrator, including many years as a high school principal. In addition to her full-time involvement in education, Sister Marilla found additional joy in being a Eucharistic minister bringing communion to nursing home residents and assisting with weekend retreats at Our Lady of the Mountain Retreat Center in Ogden, Utah.
In 1987 Sister Marilla, having spent years as convent stewardess, was asked to manage the Central Supply Store of Holy Cross Shared Services, at Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana, which she did for eight years. From 1995 to 2004, Sister Marilla ministered at Our Lady of Holy Cross Care Center, San Pierre, Indiana, as part of the Sister Presence Program. When Sister Marilla’s health declined, she retired to the motherhouse and Saint Mary’s Convent, Notre Dame, Indiana and embraced her new assignment to a Ministry of Prayer.
On Sister Marilla’s 95th birthday, Sunee Fleshman, a former Saint Mary’s College student who had made the acquaintance of Sister Marilla, showed up at Saint Mary’s Convent with lavender, silver, pink and white balloons to celebrate the occasion. Sunee said, “When I think about the blessings her presence brought to my life, it is hard to imagine how many more lives she must have touched in 95 years of life. I wanted to celebrate that!” Having lived to her 99th birthday, Sister Marilla continued to touch more lives until God called home this faithful woman who stewarded her community’s resources a hundredfold for the sake of all. She had a very positive personality, infectious laugh and was always willing to listen and share her spiritual knowledge. She was fun to be around!
It is not known why the infant Mary Marie Dyer was baptized with two names in honor of the Blessed Mother. Very appropriately, Sister bore another variant of Mary in her religious name, Sister Marilla. In May, the month of Mary, on an unseasonably chilly but sunny Saturday afternoon, Sister Marilla died in Saint Mary’s Convent on May 9, 2020. The sisters at the motherhouse gathered soon after for a scheduled devotional service in honor of the Blessed Mother and immediately included Sister Marilla in their prayers. Sister is now welcomed into God’s household with the Risen Christ, his mother and all the saints.
She was preceded in death by her brother, Herbert Dyer, her sister, Dorothy Kroll and her brother-in-law, Henry Kroll. She is survived by her sister-in-law, Lynn Dyer, ten nieces and nephews, and many great and great-great nieces and nephews.
A private prayer service for Sister Marilla in the Church of Our Lady of Loretto and Rite of Committal with Final Commendation in Our Lady of Peace Cemetery took place on Tuesday, May 12, 2020. Kaniewski Funeral Homes handled the arrangements. You are invited to donate in Sister’s name to the Sisters of the Holy Cross Ministry with the Poor Fund at www.cscsisters.org
--Written by Sister M. Adria (Connors)
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