Sister Mary Jane

May Christ bring us all together to everlasting life.  Rule of Benedict

Ask Sister Mary Jane Wallace to reminisce about her life as a Benedictine and she’ll bring scrapbooks, photos, typed notes and laugh-out-loud stories. Still a dynamo at 80-something – Sr. Mary Jane has more energy than people half her age – she continues to teach piano to children and adults, write skits for community celebrations and work on a book about her ministries. And all of that is what she does in between retreat work and, of course, our daily Benedictine prayer schedule.

Sr. Mary Jane entered the Benedictine community as most young women who became Sisters in the 40’s. Immediately upon graduation from high school, she applied to the community of Sisters who had taught her. Since she had attended the Benedictines’ St. Mary’s Academy, she applied there, entering 2 months later in August, 1947.

She loved it immediately.

“I have been blessed immensely in this life,” she says. “My mother died when I was 2-½ years old. I think she must have interceded for me and said, ‘Lord, take care of my little girl for me.’ I had so much love from my Sisters and my students. I’d recommend this life to anyone. It puzzles me why more women aren’t knocking at the door.”

If Sr. Mary Jane has anything to say about it, a few more will knock after reading about her experiences. Because, she says, her experiences were so rich. Here’s a sampling.

Becoming a Sister
“Reception Day was exciting. We entered the church in bridal dresses and veils, and after the Gospel received our black habits. We left to change, and marched back into the church to the Sponsa Christa hymn. We also received our new names. Mine was Sr. Mary David of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We were given the option to take our baptismal names back after Vatican II, so I did.”

“I loved every aspect of it. I loved the innocence and honesty of the young children. I remember the dad of a kindergartner who told me this story. They were at the supper table when Tommy asked what they should get me for Christmas. ‘What do you think we should get her, Tommy?’ ‘Oh Dad, let’s get her a new dress. She wears that same black one every day!’

“Another little girl asked me if I lived in Heaven. ‘Not yet, but I hope to get there,’ I told her.

“Another child asked me how many children I had. I told her I had 50, the combined number of my morning and afternoon students. My answer really didn’t change when she explained that she meant children of my own. My students were my kids, and I’m still in touch with many today. You couldn’t ask for more love!”

Religious Life Today
“I’m glad I had the experience of wearing the habit … although I wouldn’t want to do so again. It had a real tendency to make other people feel that because we wore habits were more holy. But this isn't so.

"Remember, everyone has a vocation. But your vocation isn't about what you wear. It's about who you are!"

“Remember, everyone is called to a vocation. But your vocation isn’t about what you wear. It’s about who you are.”

Discerning Your Vocation
“Believe it: you do have a vocation. Listen to your heart to discover what it is: marriage, single life, religious. A heart that is happy and full of peace is one that is in sync with God.

“We all have a fear of the unknown. Don’t let fear drive you. You must have faith and trust. Take the chance to come see what a beautiful way of life this is, deeper life with God.”

“Have a sense of humor. I grew up with it. My grandpa was always being asked to tell a story. Here’s one of my favorites.

“Every week this unmarried lady would come into the church and ask the Blessed Mother, ‘Holy Mary Mother of God, should I marry Tommy Todd?’ One day a couple of altar boys hid behind the altar and answered, ‘No! No!’ The lady said, ‘You be quiet Baby Jesus. I’m talking to your mother!’

“Learn to laugh. Learn to trust. Say, ‘God show me the path.’ And then really pay attention.”