sister mary tobias hagan
March 11, 1936 – April 24, 2009
Those present at the memorial Mass for S. Mary Tobias Hagan on Monday, May 4, 2009, could not help but be astounded at the outpouring of love from so many people who knew her. With love and gratitude for what she had done in their lives, helping them to heal and to grow, they sensitively told their stories. Persons came from all over, many of whom experienced the programs at Rockhaven, that place of healing S. Tobias loved so well and for which she gave such steadfast, dedicated service. Because she had an ease about her such as Jesus must have had, S. Tobias attracted many to her.
She would have loved the Mass in her honor. To accommodate the crowd, the chapel was packed with extra chairs. The liturgy, at which her brother Bob presided, celebrated all her loves: Native American tradition with its smudging ritual, songs that celebrate women by Carolyn McDade, and drumming, to which the assembly was led forth from the chapel, her personal drum striking the first sound.
Speaking for himself, Father Bob described his sister as intelligent, stubborn, her own person, someone who lived on the edge and spoke her mind, and one who was fearless in the face of injustice, especially toward women. He spoke tenderly of the love they shared as brother and sister.
Sister Pat Giljum spoke for the community. She told a story of Itzhak Perlman, the violin virtuoso, who, when one of his strings broke in concert, continued to perform with three strings. Just as Perlman made adjustments throughout the performance, S. Tobias creatively found ways to execute plans if something were to go awry in school settings when she was music supervisor. Seeing these occurrences as opportunities to make something new, S. Tobias helped all to move along toward a new creation. S. Tobias was music education consultant for the Archdiocese of St. Louis from 1963-1975. The latter two years she was music supervisor for the Catholic Education Office as well.
In 1975 S. Tobias willingly took on the role of provincial councilor/regional superior. Persons looked forward to her visits. When she arrived, they said, she used to help cook meals, pitching right in to make community a happy place. She was a good listener and encouraged sisters to pursue their dreams, to follow their hearts. Eventually S. Tobias was asked to be a general councilor and this responsibility, too, she fulfilled faithfully, especially as she managed the congregational finances and was able to explain their intricacies at congregational meetings.
All attest to how welcoming she was to our lesbian and gay brothers and sisters when she took on the role of chaplain for the local St. Louis chapter of Dignity. She understood them, listened to their stories, helped them live holy and wholesome lives and to accept themselves as loved by God.
In addition, S. Tobias championed women. Traveling widely, she facilitated for religious communities of women and even helped replicate Rockhaven’s program in the Philippines. No wonder people poured out their love at her memorial Mass.
S. Tobias related well to the elderly. She generously cared for two of our elderly sisters—S. Evarista Quigley and later S. Vita Marie Rudden. Because of her care for them they were able to sustain their health and mobility well into their elder years. S. Vita once said how much she appreciated S. Tobias’ being at Rockhaven and that the least she could do was to help make the place beautiful for those who went there. S. Tobias encouraged her and supported her faithfully.
Her last illness, S. Tobias said, was a mystery, a journey of curiosity she called it, the one challenge she was not able to understand; yet she befriended it. She steadily and faithfully waited, prayed, and welcomed visitors into her room at Nazareth Living Center. What an example she was as she gave away everything she had materially, sharing with others her beautiful treasures.
Thank you, S. Tobias, for your example and for all the many ways you spent your talents and gifts in the service of others. We miss you and hold you in our hearts. May you rest now in peace.
S. Rita Louise Huebner