Marylyn was born in Chicago, Illinois, on September 12, 1934, to John and Leona Welter. She was the fourth child, having two brothers, John and Herbert, and a sister Bernadette. She always said, “being the youngest, I was Dad's favorite.” From little on, she loved the beauty of the outdoors. Family car rides on Sundays were a special joy as she saw the beauty of nature all around her.
The family lived in Our Lady of Victory Parish, so School Sisters were part of Marylyn’s early education. After eighth grade Marylyn entered St. Joseph Convent. As an aspirant and postulant, she completed high school and continued to study music. Marylyn said of herself, “I was always kind of a free spirit - not always to the good!”
Then came Reception on June 13, 1951. “Your name in religion will be Sister Leona Marie.” What a joy to get her mother’s name! During her novitiate, her spiritual life was developed and nourished and she also began her studies at Alverno College.
After Profession, Sister Leona Marie began her teaching ministry, but not as a teacher/organist. Her music ability served her well her entire teaching and pastoral ministry days. She could handle her own school music and often helped the musician at Mass.
As a teacher, Sister Leona Marie saw every child as special and gave special attention to those who needed it. Her wit made her classroom a joyful and free place. In the late ’60s, as Vatican II and religious life experienced many changes, Sister Leona Marie chose to return to her baptismal name, Marylyn. From then on, we all had to meet the challenge to spell it correctly: “Marylyn.”
After 20-plus years of teaching, Marylyn moved into pastoral ministry. She spent time getting a degree at Catholic Theological Union. Then she ministered until her retirement as a director of religious education, RCIA coordinator, and pastoral associate.
Sister Marylyn's spirituality permeated her ministries. Creation spirituality informed her belief - all God made was good and beautiful, we are all one, God loves us because God is Love. Marylyn nurtured her spirituality by making nature retreats at a center in North Carolina. She often made them in the fall to be able to delight in the beauty of fall colored trees in the mountains.
During one of these retreats, Marylyn had a most amazing experience with a wolf. The sister director had the “wolf-man” come. He brought his wolf and gave a wonderful lecture on the creature. Then the wolf walked around the circle and gave each one a tongue lick. That identifies the person as good. The next year the “wolf-man” came again and the wolf went right up to Marylyn with a lick. The “wolf-man” said, “She remembers someone.”
At that session the “wolf-man” wanted to see if they could get the wolf to sing, so the group started singing—or rather howling like a wolf—and the wolf came right over to Marylyn, put her paws on her knees, looked her right in the eyes, and sang along with her! This was an experience she never forgot. This explains why she had so many wolf pictures in her room. Marylyn's gentle, inclusive being had plenty room for the wolf!
For the next 20 years, Marylyn permeated her pastoral ministry with these spiritual values. She was loved and respected by all her colleagues. Retirement and recovery from surgery brought her to Sacred Heart in 2016. Her body did not respond as quickly as she desired. Her deep spirituality was her salvation. God's abundance, God's grace, God's love never changes. “I'm not in charge,” she would say.
Marylyn had another passion. She was a Chicago Cubs fan! Now that she was in Brewer territory the baseball season had new excitement. Marylyn was always right there to display her colors and we always looked for her Cubs hat.
Just this past February, Marylyn shared her reflection on Response in Faith in the U.S. News. She said, "In pondering parts of our Rule of Life, I was particularly delighted to read, ‘We cherish the unique call of each woman. We respect each one's talents, background culture, and needs... We are open to the Spirit who speaks in her ... and share our own ideals, traditions, and values’ (RIF, Prin. Ill, 22). Marylyn, your life and ministry showed us how you lived our Response in Faith.
On March 26, Sister Marylyn had a massive right-side stroke, leaving her extremely limited. Her wishes were “no extraordinary means.” She quietly went into the arms of her God Who is Love on April 4, 2020.
Having requested a green burial, your body now rests in the heart of the earth. May you rest in eternal peace.