sister marian cowan

April 8, 1932 - November 7, 2015

A friendly welcoming person, supportive and encouraging

Marian, youngest of four (Clyde, Dick and Esther preceded her) was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 8, 1932, to Clyde and Esther (Koenig) Cowan. Although she was born with spina bifida occulta, it wasn’t diagnosed until she was 50 years old when an x-ray revealed the holes in her spine. Her parents had attributed her difficulties to “growing pains” so she simply endured them.

Difficult times required her family to move quite a few times during her childhood so Marian and her siblings attended various public schools. In December of her junior year, Clyde, her oldest brother, asked her if she’d like to go to a Catholic school. He accompanied her to St. Joseph Academy located on the Fontbonne College campus. Without a transcript and only her latest report card in hand, she had an interview with Mother Marcella. Marian was offered a full scholarship! Clyde agreed to purchase her books and uniforms.

Marian entered the Sisters of St. Joseph September 15, 1949, where she received the habit and the name Sister Mary Clyde, March 19, 1950. She earned a bachelor’s degree in art from Fontbonne (1965) and master’s degrees in elementary education administration from the University of Notre Dame (1968) and in spiritual theology from St. Louis University Institute of Religious Formation (1975).

S. Mary Clyde began teaching in Missouri: Sts. John and James, Ferguson (1952); Our Lady of Lourdes, University City (1959); and St. Matthew the Apostle, St. Louis (1960). 1961 brought her to Colorado schools, first to St. Patrick’s and then to St. James where she was teacher and assistant principal (1963-1964). Her next assignment was principal at St. Viator’s School in Chicago, Illinois (1964-1967).

S. Marian became a student at St. Louis University Institute for Religious Formation in 1967. From 1968-1973 she was (as needed) vocation director, formation director and director of applicants for associates/novices/temporary professed at Carondelet. At the same time, she was a staff member at St. Louis University Institute of Religious Formation from 1970 through 1976 when she went to Denver as co-founder and staff member at Ministry Training Services.

Following a 1981 sabbatical in Montecito, California, Sister Marian served as general councilor (1982-1990). She spent the next 25 years as a spiritual life consultant and an artist. An Ignatian scholar and internationally-recognized leader in the field of spiritual direction, Marian co-founded St. Louis’ Bridges Program which leads individuals through the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. She has mentored spiritual directors internationally. Her articles have been published in Sisters Today, Human Development, The Round Table, Harvest, and Liguorian. She co-authored, with John Futrell, S.J., Companions in Grace. In 2014 she moved to Nazareth Living Center where she continued her life consultant and artistic ministries as well as the ministry of prayer and presence.

Thoughts from many: she brought gifts that were very much needed at the time she was in formation and leadership ... She was truly someone who could get to the heart of the matter ... organized, knowledgeable ... had a clear and centered mind ... able to synthesize ... helped us gain insights ... I never saw a frown on her face, always a beautiful smile ... She exuded serenity ... served as an inspiration for many of us ... a joy to live with ... supportive, encouraging ... I saw the pain she endured with much patience. She left a legacy of beautiful art and clear appreciation of all that is COMMUNITY ... She always said that when we were overwhelmed we should let out a big sigh and leave everything in God’s hands ... I will miss her friendship, smile and words of wisdom.

My biggest passion is to help people to know who they really are as expressions of God to the world. —Marian Cowan—oral history

S. Helen Oates

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