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Leadership and service: the Life of Sister Mary Jane Romero

Leadership and service: the Life of Sister Mary Jane Romero - (28-08-2022)

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Benedictine Sister of Perpetual Adoration Mary Jane Romero, OSB died Aug. 27, 2022.

She was born Maria Juana on Aug. 13, 1932, to Joseph and Rose Romero and baptized the same day because, as her mother later explained, “There was no reason to wait.” She joined two older sisters, Louise and Margaret.

The family lived on a small farm in La Jara, Colorado. Mary Jane had many happy memories of celebrations with aunts, uncles and cousins, enjoying music, singing and laughter. During summer vacations, the three sisters worked in  fields of peas, first hoeing and then picking. They also had chores to do: milking the cows and feeding the pigs and chickens.

Mary Jane enjoyed her studies at public school and had decided to become a teacher. Attendance at her sister Louise’s entrance into the Franciscan Sisters’ novitiate in Rochester, Minnesota, prompted Mary Jane to transfer to the nearby school taught by the Benedictine Sisters of Atchison, Kansas. The following year, during a school retreat directed by Father Frank Faistl, the brother of our Sister Mary Benedicta, she read the booklet The Bread of Life by Father Lukas Etlin, OSB. She wrote for information while she was preparing for graduation and received the booklet The Eucharistic Adorer along with an application blank.

Mary Jane traveled to Clyde, Missouri, by train, accompanied by her mother and grandmother. She entered on July 2, 1950, along with five other young girls. She enjoyed the postulancy, enjoying the scripture classes, but found the novitiate year very difficult. To relieve her depression, Mary Jane was sent to help in kitchen. Sister Mary Emanuela Hermeler, OSB offered a lifeline. 

“(She taught me) how to fry huge pans of potatoes, and how to do things. She paid attention to me. I needed attention,” Mary Jane recalled.

Still in deep anguish, Mary Jane made her first profession on Feb. 10, 1952, receiving the name Sister Mary Pius. She made her perpetual vows on Feb. 10, 1957, and described the experience of “the joy of self-offering to God” as “the happiest day of my life.”

Sister Mary Jane was transferred to the Benedictine Sisters’ Tucson, Arizona, monastery in 1960 where she experienced the departures of many religious sisters following Vatican II. Strengthened by the love and example of many others, she decided to remain in the Congregation. She went on the first home visit in 1968 and wrote, “I experienced what heaven must be like surrounded by so much love of my family. It was also the last time I saw my dear father, who died suddenly in November.”

Sister Mary Jane was able to attend one year of college at Mount Saint Scholastica College in Atchison from 1968 to 1969. Subsequently, she worked in the editorial department of Spirit&Life until 1974, when she was asked to be novice director. She began directing retreats after one month of counseling with John Sanford in San Diego. She felt prepared to offer spiritual direction after making a 30-day retreat under Father Gene Merz, SJ. Her book, Seeking, on the Rule of Saint Benedict was published by Liturgical Press. We published her paraphrase of the Exercises of Saint Gertrude, Praying in the Spirit of Saint Gertrude.

In 1977, Sister Mary Jane was appointed prioress of the Sisters’ Mundelein, Illinois, monastery, which was closed in 1978. After that, she worked in the printery and served as postulant director until she was elected prioress of our San Diego monastery in 1987. In 1988, she had the opportunity to participate in a pilgrimage of Benedictine prioresses to Europe and the Holy Land. Sister Mary Jane was elected to serve on the General Council in 1990. During that time, she also served as archivist, creating birthday books and working on the necrology books. She also joined a team of American Benedictines who visited monasteries in Guatemala.

From 1996 to 2002, Sister Mary Jane served as prioress general. She oversaw the closing of the St. Louis monastery in 2001, the building of the health care center, Our Lady of Rickenbach, at Clyde, and the renovation of guest houses and assembly room.

Following her term of office, Sister Mary Jane spent six months at Osage Monastery+Forest of Peace in Sand Springs, Oklahoma. After a trip to Spain, she returned to Tucson in January 2003. She spent 15 happy years working in the Liturgical Vestment Department until the closing of the Tucson monastery in 2018, when she returned to Clyde. She helped in the archives and wrote for Spirit&Life.

Sister Mary Jane worked in many areas during her 70 years as a Benedictine Sister of Perpetual Adoration: sewing, altar bread work, caring for chickens, writing for the magazine, and printing. Most of all, she prayed and lived faithfully and joyfully.

Due to the limitations of age, Sister Mary Jane transferred to Our Lady of Rickenbach shortly after Christmas last year. Active and alert, she continued to assist in the archives and to write articles. She became ill on her birthday and was later placed on hospice care.

Sister Mary Jane died peacefully on Aug. 27, 2022, surrounded by many of her Sisters, her nieces, Mary Ann, Margie, and Katherine; and her friends, Sisters Ginny and Carol, CPPS, were with her at her passing.

Sister Mary Jane is survived by her monastic family, her sister, Louise, nieces and nephews, and many relatives and friends. Her funeral liturgy and burial at the Benedictine Sisters’ Adoration Chapel and Mount Calvary Cemetery will be held on Aug. 29, 2022, in Clyde.