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Mary Carl Arsenault

List of deceased Sisters

Date of death 08/07/2011

Sr Mary Carl SMSM
(Viola Arsenault)
January 11th, 1925 – July 8th, 2011


“To be a witness to Christ does not consist in engaging in propaganda nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery. It means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist.” Cardinal Suhard

Sr Mary Carl was a witness to Christ!

Sr M. Carl was born on Jan. 11, 1925 in Reading, Massachusetts. She grew up in a strong Catholic family with her mother, Mary and her father, Joseph and two sisters and two brothers. She was close to them throughout her life.

Sister joined the Marist Missionary Sisters on July 31, 1948 and was professed on Feb. 2nd, 1951. This year she celebrated 60 years as a Marist Missionary, called to live by the Spirit of Mary and to serve the mission of Christ.

After Profession Sister studied at Fannie Farmer’s Cooking School, and took these skills to the Marist Father’s novitiate in Staten Island where she worked in kitchen and laundry, while awaiting her mission assignment and earning a little money for our poor Region with so many young vocations to train.

In March 1954 she was assigned to Hansen Home in Jamaica, where we administered the Leprosy hospital for the Government. There she was a “Jill of all trades”, putting her hand to nursing, laundry, kitchen, laboratory work and sewing for the next five years.

She returned to our center house in Framingham with a severe rheumatoid arthritis episode. She would need to convalesce for almost a year. Little did she know that this disease would become her main mission from then on. When did she make the decision that she would never complain of her pain or limitation? When did she realize that her dream of mission overseas would not be possible again? Our Blessed Mother said her “yes” to God’s will and this was Sr Mary Carl’s model.

From 1962 to 1967 she began to work with ceramics with Sr Anna Frank as a way to keep her hands supple. She was very creative and her works were beautiful and delicate. I was privileged to work with her on my week-ends home from nursing school.

I can attest to the fact that Sr M. Carl was that kind of living mystery whose life revealed God by just being her genuine self - known for her smile, her wit and her willingness to never let her disability make her disabled. We do not have a record of how many surgeries she had on her hands and on her feet, but there were many. When I held her hand as she was dying, I wondered how this rounded crippled hand was still knitting caps for babies at the newborn nursery. Her knitting basket stood in the corner of her room.

From 1971 to 1983 she was local bursar, regional financial administrator and mission bursar. She was a very good accountant and even more appreciated by the Sisters as she gave money as requested with a smile and congenial spirit: not about to judge the Sister or to lecture.

How happy she was to be assigned to our mission in Brooklyn with the Marist Fathers in 1986 to 1989. This would end with another return to Waltham and an acute episode of her rheumatoid arthritis and a time in hospital and at Marist Hill.

1990 to 1999 were happy years at Waltham. She worked with our stamp department and was a team member at the house and bursar. She was preeminently a community woman: a person who was cheerful, fun, usually had a joke to tell, did not criticize and had great empathy. Everyone loved Sr M. Carl.

Sister was missioned to Marillac Assisted Living in 2005 and embraced her prayer ministry along with her mission of suffering. In 2010 to 2011 she had several falls and fractures of shoulder and clavicle, and developed memory loss, so was admitted to Elizabeth Seton Nursing home. In June she fractured her hip and recovery was limited by her general weakness and weight loss. July 7th she had just finished dinner when she asked the aide if she “saw the people in white at the end of her bed”. The aide said she did not see them. Sister reached out for them and soon lapsed into unconsciousness.

She died on July 8th. The Sisters, staff at Elizabeth Seton and her family came and went during this death vigil to let her know she was not alone and that she was loved. Prayers were said and songs were sung. Did I mention that she loved to sing? We believe that Jesus who promised that He was going to prepare a place for us welcomed her with open arms. Mary, who chose her to carry her Name and Spirit embraced her, wishing her a “Happy 60th Jubilee” and assuring her that there is no more sorrow now, only joy.

May Sr M. Carl, (Viola) remember us in her prayers and lighten our spirits with her joy.

Sr Judith Sheridan, smsm