Mary C. McGovern, BVM (Clemento) died Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017, at Caritas Center in Dubuque, Iowa. Visitation will be from 9–10:15 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017, in the Marian Hall Chapel followed by a Sharing of Memories at 10:15 a.m. Funeral liturgy will immediately follow. Burial is in the Mount Carmel cemetery.
She was born in Dubuque, Iowa, on June 6, 1920, to Clement and Marjorie McComish McGovern. She entered the BVM congregation Sept. 8, 1937, from Cathedral Parish, Dubuque. She professed first vows on March 19, 1940, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1945.
Sister Mary was a music teacher and principal in Dubuque, where she also ministered in the Instructional Resource Center at Clarke University and served as congregational volunteer at Mount Carmel. She taught elementary school music in Grayslake, Maywood and Chicago, Ill.; Casper, Wyo.; and Emmetsburg and Sioux City, Iowa.
She was preceded in death by her parents. She is survived by cousins and the Sisters of Charity, BVM, with whom she shared life for 79 years.
Sister Mary C. McGovern, BVM (Clemento)
Marian Hall Chapel, Aug. 22, 2017
Good morning and welcome to the celebration of the life of our Sister Mary C. McGovern.
Mary Lucille McGovern was born on June 6, 1920, in Dubuque, Iowa, the only child of Clement and Marjorie McComish McGovern. She grew up two blocks from St. Raphael Cathedral and was a proud member of the parish for many years. She graduated from the parish grade school and later St. Joseph Academy.
At a young age, she felt the call to religious life so that “I may love our Lord even more in gratitude for all that He has done for me.” She entered the congregation on Sept. 8, 1937, received the name Clemento at her reception on March 19, 1938, and professed her first vows on March 19, 1940. Next month she would have marked her 80th year as a BVM.
Mary spent 30 years teaching music, often in combination with a grade classroom. She was missioned at The Immaculata and St. Jerome in Chicago, St. Gilbert in Grayslake, and St. Eulalia in Maywood, all in Illinois, and at St. Anthony in Casper, Wyo. In Iowa, she ministered at St. Ellen in Emmetsburg, St. Joseph in Sioux City, and St. Raphael Cathedral in Dubuque, where she also served as principal. Mary also worked 12 years in the Instructional Resource Center at Clarke University where her organizational skills were a great help to the students.
Mary was a good, conscientious teacher who loved her students and was attentive to their needs. At St. Raphael, a large number of students lived on the bluffs above the Cathedral and always walked to school. A former student recalled, “If we were sent home ill, she didn’t want us walking up the big hills. She would give us five cents to ride the Fenelon elevator.”
A Salt article about Mary begins “It’s the only child that feels the call to be near as her parents grow older.” Mary was sent to teach at St. Raphael in 1964 because her aging parents lived nearby. After her father shattered his knee in a fall at work, she gradually assumed more and more of the housework. When her father fell again in 1975, Mary moved in with her parents. She was very close to her father. His death a few weeks later was a tremendous loss.
Mary continued to care for her mother who was almost blind by that time. “Living with Mother, we had developed a closeness,” recalled Mary. “She was patient with me. One day she turned and said to me, ‘Honey, you try awfully hard, but you have a lot to learn.’” When her mother became ill in 1984, Mary reluctantly moved her mother to a nursing home. On the Saturday before Mother’s Day, she ate breakfast with her mother and gave her roses. Her mother died later that day, was buried on Tuesday, and the Clarke University fire occurred on Thursday. “I had lots of emotional trauma in the space of a few days,” recalled Mary. She was immensely grateful to the Clarke BVMs for their support during a most difficult time.
In today’s first reading, we hear “See what love God has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.” (1 John 3:1). Mary was a deeply loving person. She received everyone with a warm smile and a profound respect that honored all of God’s children. She was hospitable, friendly and ever sensitive to the needs of others. For many years, she unofficially served in parish ministry in the Cathedral neighborhood where she knew her parents’ neighbors and friends. After retiring in 1988, she volunteered at Marian Hall, taught classes at the Roberta Kuhn Center, and served as a communion minister at Manor Care Nursing Home.
Mary lived at Mount Carmel for 27 years and enjoyed being of service until her memory diminished. “[My] years at Mount Carmel have been the most healing and most peaceful of my religious life,” she wrote. “I truly live with joy and peace in the presence of the Lord. I am grateful to my God, my congregation, and all who have helped me on my journey.” Mary’s BVM sisters, along with her cousins, were treasured family members.
With her deep devotion to our Blessed Mother, it seems appropriate that Mary went home to God on the feast of the Assumption. With gratitude for the wonderful blessing Mary has been to us, we celebrate her entrance into eternal life. Rest in peace, beloved child of God.