August 4, 1922 - June 26, 2015
Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest….learn from me for my yoke is easy and my burden is light…Words taken from the Gospel of Matthew.
This gospel passage and the other scripture readings of today’s liturgy from Hosea, and Paul’s letter to the Romans, weave in some way, themes of life, love, fidelity, and gratitude, qualities so evident in Marylena’s life whether as part of the Avery family, her family of origin and/or as a dedicated woman religious and part of our family, the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Boston.
Mary and Walter Avery are credited with creating a truly warm, faith filled, loving home for their three children. Because of the love she witnessed and received from her parents, Marylena grew in her understanding of God’s great love and faithfulness and in the deep gratitude she bore for the simple blessings that graced her life.
Upon graduating from Whitman High School, Marylena was accepted to and ultimately graduated from Regis College in 1944. I do not know the real story behind Marylena’s vocation or how she came to discern her call to became a Sister of Saint Joseph, but I can imagine that the kernel of vocation was sown deep within the soil of her heart; that it was watered and nurtured so that when the time came that Marylena perceived God’s invitation to lead a life of love and service, she was ready. Her response was perhaps similar to that of Mary, her patron, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior…” In my mind I envision Marylena praying daily, her own Magnificat.
In the section on Prayer found in The Constitution of the Sisters of Saint Joseph we read: “Our prayer, like our ministry and our vowed life in community, requires the humility, the fidelity, and the courage to let ourselves be emptied by God, that we might be filled with love, a love that flows out to one another and to those whose lives ours touch- a love that flows back into our deepening intimacy with God.”
Marylena loved her life as a Sister of Saint Joseph and was deeply rooted in prayer, in our charism of unifying love and of service to the dear neighbor. Through her ministry of teaching, she witnessed in word and in deed the joy she experienced. For most of her 71 years as a Sister of Saint Joseph, Marylena ministered as an excellent science educator, teaching the sciences to high school students first at Matignon and then at Cardinal Spellman. She understood the meaning of the words, “Excellence tempered with gentleness” and not only taught the courses assigned her but imparted even greater lessons through her life and witness.
As an example of her influence I would like to share with you excerpts from a letter written to Marylena from a former student. In it he writes “Have you any idea how great it has been to be a part of your Chemistry Honors class? Speaking for all in the class, I say the past year has been awesome! It is not just your teaching, but how much of yourself you put into your courses, and your obvious care and concern for each of one of us. I cannot imagine a day without your enthusiasm, your cheerfulness and your interest in us. How proud I was to give something back to you with my win at MIT! I guess I just want to say thank you for being a part of my junior year”. What teacher would not want to hear those words from a grateful student… Perhaps that is why she kept his letter.
Marylena was proud of the over 40 years she spent as member of the Spellman faculty and prouder still that many in the next generations of her Avery family were accepted as students at her beloved, Spellman. I am almost certain that your “Aunty Sister” was bursting with pride when she watched you, her nieces and nephews, receive your coveted Spellman diploma.
Upon retiring from Spellman, 8 years ago, Marylena chose to live at Saint Joseph Hall becoming a vital member of that community and of the smaller group she joined which became her “local community”.
During all of Marylena’s ministerial life as well as in her retirement years, she demonstrated positive personal attributes such as a spirit of joy, a willingness to be of service, a sense of calm, kindness, thoughtfulness etc..
She enjoyed relatively good health most of her life and it was only within the past month or so that her health declined. This necessitated her move next door because she required the skilled medical attention that only the Staff at Bethany Health Care Center was able to provide.
Everyone was aware that Marylena “was never sick a day in her life” and that possibly she was ready to rest from her labors in God’s loving embrace. Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest….learn from me for my yoke is easy and my burden is light…Come…
Words perhaps that Marylena prayed during these last few weeks; entrusting herself to the One to whom she committed her life, ready to be with her God and with all those whom she loved.
Marylena, you have known the incredible privilege of accepting Jesus’ invitation and prayed to walk with, to learn from and to follow faithfully as his disciple. Now Jesus invites you one last time, come to me…learn from me…receive your rest and enjoy new life.
Roseann Amico, CSJ
June 30, 2015