sister mariann debuck


April 18, 1932 - March 4, 2010

"Wait! You can wait with me!" A dear friend of mine died recently and about a week before he died, one of his sons leaned over and asked, "Dad, what can we do for you?" Bill thought a moment and then said to his son, "Wait, you can wait with me!" I doubt that I will ever forget that moment or those words. What I did not think about was that I would have another chance to practice the lesson again so soon on the journey with S. Mariann DeBuck. It was a long wait for her after a ten-year battle with breast cancer and for all those who waited with her. 

S. Mariann was born in St Louis to Anna and Henry DeBuck on April 18, 1932.  She had one brother, Henry, known as Bud. Bud and Eleanor had three children: Dean, Diane and Don who each have three children. As children, Bud was old enough to stay alone after school, but Mariann was not. Their parents worked, so Mariann stayed with her grandmother during the week when she was in school and lived at home on weekends. 

After high school and working a while Mariann entered the community in 1951. On her reception day in 1952, she received the name S. Anna Henry

S. Mariann taught in elementary schools, in high schools and at Fontbonne College. Her field was business. Many of her students have stayed close to her because she made a real difference in their lives.

S. Mariann served the community as part of the formation team and then was assigned to Nazareth as superior, where her real learning about senior adults began and was nurtured. When Mary Queen and Mother opened, she subsequently served for ten years as its Human Resources director. She later returned to Nazareth in the same capacity and finally she was named administrator of CSJ Care—all in St. Louis. Many of us developed careers in long term care because of the encouragement and mentoring of S. Mariann as well as that of S. Jeanne McGovern.

About three or four years ago I received a letter from S. Mariann that contained only a couple of pages, material she had written as part of a Mission and Values project at Nazareth when she was human resources director. When I asked her why she had sent it to me she cryptically replied, "Because I wanted you to have it." So I kept it.

In these pages, she first describes her background including her time serving in formation, being the superior of the experimental community at Carondelet, her dad's massive stroke and his inability to recover his speech. She speaks of her mom caring for him at home and her attempt to help all that she could.

She was back at Nazareth by then and she writes, "I learned to be on 24-hour call. I learned to be with the dying...I learned that aging persons need support, interdependence, appreciation, avenues to know that they are included, are heard and not just seen, that they need privacy and opportunities to grow. I learned to be grateful for nurses, physicians and staff who cared and took care."

Later in this piece she says, "I do believe that Jesus heals and that healing can be explained that when you heal you do something to a person. Jesus spent his life doing more than healing.  He was WITH people where they are. What do I want? I want us to walk WITH the elderly—enjoy their stories, appreciate them where they are...I want us to be like the Jesus who served and healed...and I want our Mission statement to say that." This was her yardstick for ministry.

Together with developing love for senior adults, S Mariann was a community woman who gave and received the graces and blessings of living in the Community of St Joseph. She was active in associate groups and encouraged and mentored folks interested in becoming associates. S. Mariann never missed a chance to tell you that you were doing a great job and that she was proud, but always cautioned, "Take care of yourself."

Described as a community woman, S Mariann saw God in the everyday happenings and gave these moments back to God in prayer. She was full of cheer, consistent, organized, ready to step up to help, took a chance on people, funny, and willing to wait with those she loved. Always ready with a listening ear and an open heart, S. Mariann never faltered in her fidelity to her friends. She lived a simple life that was God-centered in serving the dear neighbor. Staff persons who knew her repeatedly say, "She hired me; she took a chance on me and I am still here." The life of this good woman has made a difference in the lives of our dear neighbors one after the other.

S. Mariann, who suffered long, lovingly, faithfully and patiently, waits no more. The vessel that carried her life has been returned to our God completed in the very best way she knew how.

Sister Suzanne Wesley

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