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Sister Mary William Allen

She Did All Things Well


Mary Alice Allen was born to William and Anne (Williams) over 101 years ago in Clare, Iowa. Family roots were strong and enduring. Twenty-six years later, after entering the Sisters of the Presentation in 1940, she would take her father’s first name and her mother’s family name for her own lifelong religious name. Throughout her life she diligently kept contacts, welcomed visits and gladly shared news of family members and their accomplishments.

Before entering the Sisters of the Presentation, Mary Allen was an elementary teacher and proud of it. Years later she would relate student anecdotes and mention student and family names recalled from those years. Several decades later, she would return from her brother’s wake and funeral to delightedly tell of the people in attendance who reminded her of their happy memories of her as their teacher. Then she would add with a warm twinkle in her eye, “They still remember and so do I.”

Sister William continued her teaching ministry over a span of 69 years. Being a teacher was a gift she lived in full awareness. Her quiet dedication gave rise to her own high bar of self-expectation and competence seen in her work with students. After she moved to a new mission and throughout her retirement years, Sister William would often ask sisters connected with her former parishes about the school and the families. All those she had known and helped were carried in her heart and prayers. 

Sister William was not given to talk about prayer. Her witness of deep faith and her hours of prayer that included several daily extended “chapel times” were clearly part of who she was. Her concern for sisters in community was apparent by her spirit of hospitality, her questions of interest and words of encouragement, her hours of sewing done to perfection, her attitude of service that would always give a hand and her presence at and participation in all community activities and events.

Ever a woman of wisdom, she listened carefully and spoke her inner truth with an informed viewpoint and discerning mind. It was touching on more than one occasion during serious community discussions to have Sister William, even at age 101, take the microphone and share simply with clarity and conviction: “I have great hope for the future of our Presentation community.” Her wide interests were ongoing and reading was forefront. She stayed particularly current on happenings and people at Mount Loretto, in community, in family, in Clare and Webster County, in locations related to her experience and the sisters’ ministries. She knew how to savor her blessings.

Sister William lived a quality of presence each day and brought precision of performance to every task. No job was too big or too insignificant; it simply needed to be accomplished with an eye to careful finishing detail. Anything she put her hand to was done as well as possible – from teacher to coordinator of the motherhouse, from personal laundry to artful ironing, from a diligent card game to intricate handiwork. Sister spoke intentionally, using minimal words. She calmly said what she meant and meant what she said, without any further ado. She was appreciative and gentle of heart without noticing disappointments. She knew how to live interdependently while sharing plenty of independent initiative. She was ever gracious and did not need recognition. She did all things well.

In the funeral homily, Father Doug Wathier stated, “There is a hole in our hearts and a hole in the congregation of the Sisters of the Presentation at the passing of Sister William …” Later he spoke of the “truth that Sister William taught with her life – that those who stitch together a life according to the Way, Truth and Life of Jesus do not die. They live forever with God …”

If you would like to make a memorial gift in memory of Sister William, click here.

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