sister mary laurent duggan

May 13, 1919—July 21, 2013

Generous resilient, supportive to both community and family

Sister Mary Laurent Duggan, born to Lawrence and Mae Lawler Duggan, baptized Mary Geraldine, was one of four children. Two of her three brothers, Lawrence and Jerome, preceded her in death. Martin and Mae, her sister-in-law and friend since high school days, are well known to all of PBS’ “Donnybrook” show fans in St. Louis.

Few realize that all the while S. Mary Laurent attended Holy Family School, St. Joseph’s Academy and Fontbonne College, she had another life as a concert pianist performing on a weekly radio program. Another strong musical influence was the exacting tutelage of Dom Ermin Vitry, OSB in singing chant for Holy Family School and Parish in South St. Louis.

S. Mary Laurent first met the Sisters of St. Joseph when she won a scholarship to St. Joseph’s Academy. It was during her sophomore year at Fontbonne on Christmas day that she knew she was to be a Sister of St. Joseph.

Following her graduation from Fontbonne with a major in Latin, she entered the community and received the habit and the name Sister Mary Laurent on March 19, 1942. Shortly thereafter, she began a whirlwind tour of the province as the “go-to sub” in six different elementary schools, most likely musing that “If this is Holy Week, it must be Sedalia,” and no doubt feeling grateful for all she had learned from Dom Vitry.

S. Mary Laurent then spent many happy years in secondary education at St. Teresa’s Academy, Kansas City; St. Joseph’s Academy, Green Bay; and Rosati-Kain and St. Joseph’s Academy in St. Louis, teaching Latin, French, algebra, religion and chorus. Sisters Shawn Madigan, Jean Paul Selissen and a certain R-K alumna remember how much she challenged the singers to do their best, the wonderful choral literature they sang, and how enjoyable the whole experience was.

After earning a master’s degree in musicology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign , and a doctorate in musicology at Eastman School of Music, she spent the next phase of her life teaching music at Avila College and Fontbonne College.

In 1971, S. Laurent was the first provincial superior to be elected by the sisters. Vatican II had ended, but in the immediate years following, the impetus for change was evolving. Thus, she established the Renewal Team who met with local communities and facilitated the processes of encouraging sisters to become more self-directed in their lives and ministries. During her tenure she also established sectionals. This governmental structural change allowed for greater contribution and participation from all members. S. Laurent requested two assistants and area superiors, who, as she reflected, helped in “spreading out the governing process of the province.” Change was occurring.

From 1978-88, S. Mary Laurent was chancellor of the diocese of Savannah, Ga., for Bishop Lessard and assisted him to realize his dream of forming a Diocesan Pastoral Council and deaneries. Leaving Savannah in 1988, she began a 20-year term working in the province Development Office. Always supportive, she added her voice and presence to the newly formed Carondelet Women’s Chorus in 2001 where she was beloved by all.

In 2008, S. Mary Laurent moved to Nazareth where she continued to serve, playing for liturgy as her health allowed. S. Kathleen Karbowski described S. Mary Laurent as a great example of a leader-member and member-leader. She loved being and serving her whole life as a Sister of St. Joseph. Her family, too, appreciated her involvement in all their joys and sorrows. Generous, resilient, supportive to both community and family, faithful friend, stalwart Cardinals fan, and avid bridge player, S. Mary Laurent, through her many kindnesses and achievements, lives on in our memories.

Valé, Good Friend and Sister,

 If you are well, I am well.

S. Joan Margaret Whittemore

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