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Sister Mary Gerald

List of Deceased Sisters

Date of Death 19/04/2016

Sr. Mary Gerald smsm

[Rita Parent]

March 5th 1918 – April 19th, 2016


Rita Parent was born on March 19th, 1918 in Lawrence, Massachusetts.  Her father, Arthur Parent, was born in Lawrence, and her mother, Blanche, had come from Canada. She had just one sibling, her beloved brother Gerald, whose name she took when she became a Sister.

Sr. Mary Gerald entered the Marist Missionary Sisters in Bedford on February 20th, 1938 and made her first vows on August 15th, 1940.  She served at Isabella Street in Boston for two years before returning to Bedford to care for Sr. Mary Casimir, who was terminally ill.  In 1943 she was sent to Lowell, Massachusetts to do her Nurses Training at St John’s Hospital.  She was then missioned to what was then called the “South” Solomon Islands and arrived in 1947, less than two years after the end of the Second World War, during which these islands had seen such devastation.

Sr. Mary Gerald was to spend the next 30 years serving in the Solomons. She grew to love the people and learned the Gari language, which she spoke fluently.  She was stationed in some of the most isolated places, including Avu Avu on Guadalcanal and Takwa on North Malaita. She wrote about her early days, “My nursing career was put to use immediately, as there were so many sick to attend, with malaria and especially yaws, which was quite prevalent.  Sometimes when I visited the villages, I did not have even the bare necessities.  I would have to kneel on a native woven mat on the floor to deliver a baby.”

Sisters Mary Keegan and Margaret Tish in Australia wrote to share their memories of Sr. Mary Gerald:

Our first meeting with her here in Australia was when she was on her way to USA to make her LTSR[1] She had just left Avu Avu after surviving a most fearful cyclone (typhoon). They were never reported in those days. The whole Station had been washed out to sea except for a set of cement stairs that indicated where the Sisters’ house used to be. The Sisters, and many people, had survived by taking shelter in an old cement water tank up on a hill behind the Station. In all of this terror the elderly French Sister (Sr. M Antonia) became very ill and died soon after from pneumonia.

What was Sr. M Gerald like after all these events and now on her way to USA? She was full of stories about Avu Avu and the people and their survival altogether. As young smsms, we were absolutely inspired. How soon could we get to Avu Avu?

After LTSR she returned to Solomon Islands, to Takwa on Malaita. Again she was the only medical person and responsible, not only for patients in the dispensary, but for the boys and girls who were attending the Primary School at the Station, as weekly boarders.

Her ability to speak French as well as the local Gari language brought her to yet another change of Station. This time to Visale, on Guadalcanal, where the smsms’ benefactors (Sr. M Beatrice, Family & Friends) had built a house as the retirement place for the elderly sisters, most of whom were French speaking. Besides assisting with the care of the elderly sisters Sr. M Gerald assisted at the Dispensary and the many mothers coming for the delivery of their babies. But this time a road connected Visale with Honiara and medical personnel were more available and Central Hospital not too far to send a difficult case.

Having cared for and seen the elderly sisters to their eternal home, Sr. M Gerald was free to answer the call of her own family. She was able to return to USA and provide some comfort for her own mother.

You loved the people of Solomon Islands, Sr. M Gerald, and they in turn loved you. A young smsm from Avu Avu is now ministering to the women and children on Bougainville. You handed on the smsm baton. We thank you, Sr. M Gerald, and we pray you go in peace to your eternal happiness

Sr. Mary Gerald returned to the USA in 1978 and cared for her mother and her brother during their last illnesses, going back and forth between Lawrence and her SMSM community in Winchester.

In June 1990, she joined our newly-established SMSM community in Rocky Creek, a retirement village in Tampa, Florida.  Throughout her live, Sr. Gerald was known for her joyful spirit, and she showed this as she zoomed around the village in a motorized golf cart, bringing the Eucharist and her cheerful presence to homebound residents.  In 2001 she received an award from the Village for 10 Years of Volunteer Service with the Senior Companion Group.

Her own health, though, began to deteriorate, so in 2005, Sr. Gerald returned to Massachusetts and moved to the Marillac Residence in Wellesley Hills, where she received the help she needed and continued to inspire others by her cheerful sociability despite her increasing limitations. In 2011 she moved to the Elizabeth Seton Residence when she needed more care.

On the night of April 19th Sister Mary Gerald left us peacefully, and suddenly.  There was no forewarning of her imminent departure.  Although startled, none of us could think of a more fitting way for Gerald to go, slipping away, leaving us only with the memories of her joyful and generous spirit.  As Sr. Phyllis said, during her “words of remembrance” at the funeral Mass: “One never stopped to talk with her without leaving feeling joyful.  She was a woman of Faith and Hope…always with a smile and often with a joke on her lips and a hearty laugh.”

May you enter into the fullness of joy now, our dear Sr. Mary Gerald.

In Mary,


Sr Claire Rheaume smsm                                                                      Sr Virginia Fornasa smsm

Regional Leader                                                                                   Communications Secretary

[1]“Long Term Spiritual Renewal” program for Marist Missionary Sisters. Sr. Gerald participated in 1958.