Mary Kay Dum, BVM (Meda) died Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017, at Marian Hall in Dubuque, Iowa. Visitation will be from 9–10:15 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, in the Marian Hall Chapel. A Sharing of Memories and funeral liturgy will immediately follow. Burial is in the Mount Carmel cemetery.
She was born in Tulsa, Okla., on July 12, 1933, to William H. and Mary Mead Langton. She entered the BVM congregation Sept. 8, 1951, from Holy Family Parish, Tulsa. She professed first vows on March 19, 1954, and final vows on July 16, 1959.
Sister Mary Kay taught elementary school in Chicago; Oklahoma City, Okla.; Tempe, Ariz.; Carlsbad, Calif.; and Washington, Iowa. She was preschool director in Phoenix; and Montessori teacher in Carlsbad, Oceanside and San Luis Rey, Calif., where she was also Montessori director. She ministered in migrant Headstart Programs in Orlando and West Palm Beach, Fla.; Durham, N.C.; and Granada Hills, San Marcos and Carlsbad, Calif. She served as BVM Western Regional and later as Montessori school volunteer.
She was preceded in death by her parents. She is survived by a sister Elizabeth (Ned) Kennington, Durham, N.C.; brothers William, Jr. (Nola) Dum, San Antonio; and Michael Dum, Dallas; an aunt, Jeanette Langton, Enid, Okla.; nieces; a nephew; and the Sisters of Charity, BVM, with whom she shared life for 66 years.
Mary Kay Dum, BVM (Meda)
Marian Hall, Nov. 16, 2017
Good morning and welcome to the celebration of life of our Sister Mary Kay Dum.
Mary Katherine Dum was born on July 12, 1933, in Tulsa, Okla., the first child of William and Mary Mead Langton Dum. Siblings William, Michael and Elizabeth (Betsy) followed. “My brave young parents began their family during the Depression,” she wrote. “We lived a block from Holy Family Cathedral in Tulsa and our lives centered around the church and school. Our maternal grandmother lived outside Tulsa on a few acres . . . and we loved to spend weekends and summers with her. We rode our bikes, climbed trees, and listened to stories of her childhood in Garryowen, Iowa. Never did she mention her Dust Bowl years in Oklahoma. We heard the happy stories of life on the Iowa prairie.
After her high school graduation, Mary Kay surprised everyone by announcing she wanted to be a sister like the ones her grandmother had known. “The prairie life appealed to me,” she wrote. “Real mission work.” Two of Mary Kay’s great-grand aunts and eight cousins were BVMs, including Cecilia Dougherty and Helen C. Flynn, who transferred into the community in 1973 and died in 2009.
Mary Kay entered the congregation on Sept. 8, 1951, and received the name Meda upon her reception on March 19, 1952. She professed first vows on March 19, 1954, and lived 66 years as a BVM. Reflecting on her golden jubilee, she wrote, “For those of us who have experienced a life of consecrated celibacy lived in community and mission, this particular experience that is religious life is a treasure . . . worth everything, even life itself . . . . We learned that living this life brought blessings and that sharing the blessings brought immeasurable joy.”
In the Gospel, Jesus tells us, “Whoever welcomes a child . . . for my sake welcomes me.” Mary Kay welcomed and educated children for over 40 years. Her first mission was St. Gertrude in Chicago. Two years later, she and two other BVMs opened St. Charles Borromeo in Oklahoma City. Bringing BVM education and traditions to her home state was one of Mary Kay’s happiest moments. Missions at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Tempe, Ariz.; St. Patrick in Carlsbad, Calif., which she helped to open as well; and St. James in Washington, Iowa; followed. After 15 years as a primary teacher, she recognized the need for parental involvement in the education of young children. She was greatly impressed with Montessori schools and their belief that children have a natural curiosity and an eagerness to learn. “If we can help them learn how to learn,” she pointed out, “they will be self-educating for the rest of their lives.”
After completing additional studies and an internship, Mary Kay launched her first school in 1970, Barrio Montessori, at Sacred Heart Parish in Phoenix. After Sacred Heart School closed, Barrio merged with South Phoenix Montessori. Mary Kay taught at Casa Montessori School in Carlsbad, Calif., before establishing the Old Mission Montessori in San Luis Rey, Calif., in 1976, where she served as the principal and director for 10 years. Old Mission closed in 2016 after 40 years in operation.
After an enjoyable sabbatical with NETWORK in Washington, D.C., Mary Kay found a new calling in migrant education. As the program developer of the East Coast Migrant Head Start Project, she traveled up and down the coast to provide training and technical assistance for Head Start programs.
She was in South Carolina in 1989 when hurricane Hugo devastated John’s Island, damaging one of her sites and the temporary housing of migrant families. In a letter of gratitude for the generous disaster relief sent by the BVM community, Mary Kay wrote, “On behalf of the migrant families and residents of John’s Island, I thank you with all my heart. The residents . . . though financially poor, have homes and a heritage they prize. The migrants are forced into marginal lifestyles cut off from political, economic and social assistance. They are doubly grateful for your help and they echo the words of one of my colleagues, ‘your order really takes being Sisters of Charity seriously!’”
Eventually Mary Kay returned to California to work with the Migrant Head Start Program in San Diego County, including a short time as regional manager. She served the congregation on the Western Regional Team. Known for the low-key manner in which she handled problems, it has been said that she was “completely, absolutely fantastic” as a Regional. After completing two terms, she returned to the Old Mission Montessori on a part-time basis.
In 1993, as a member of the board of directors of the National Farm Workers Ministry (NFWM), she was among the estimated 35,000 people who attended the funeral of Cesar Chavez. Along with several thousand people, she walked the three miles from the gathering place to the United Farm Workers’ (UFW) compound. “The Mass was broadcast to the field and the feeling turned to a joyous celebration of Cesar’s life,” she wrote. “He was praised as a leader, a humble man, a prophet . . . I was privileged to represent the BVMs in a touching moment of history.”
Mary Kay moved to Dubuque in 2007 and spent her time volunteering at Mount Carmel and driving sisters on shopping trips. She later served on the National Election Board and the Shareholder Education and Advocacy Group (SEA). Reflecting on her move, she wrote, “When the time came to return to Dubuque, I felt I brought ‘the West’ with me. I’m not saying that the move was without trauma. As the months roll[ed] on, an awareness [was] growing within me that now we are forming a greater unity. Our connections are expanding. . . . We bring the gift of the West into the sacred circle of BVM life today. Dag Hammarskjöld said, and I agree, ‘For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, Yes!’”
Mary Kay had a wonderful sense of humor and truly enjoyed life. She was honest, caring and hospitable. The door of her aunt’s mobile home in Carlsbad was always open for sisters to stay and enjoy the beach. She enjoyed community gatherings and was very knowledgeable and articulate on community issues. As an enterprising person, she took great ideas and enthusiastically pursued them to fruition, deeply affecting lives and making friends wherever she went.
In her final wishes, she wrote, “Emphasize my gratitude for the love surrounding me all my life—love of God, of family, of friends. I have been blessed with great family and friends and wonderful experiences. Every day I enjoy[ed] my lifelong quest to find God in everything, the good and the bad . . . I have been loved by many good people and I am very grateful.”
Yes, Mary Kay, you were well loved and you loved well. You will always remain in our hearts.