Sister Mary David McFarland, O.S.B.

March 25, 1915 – May 7, 2009

Sister Sister Mary David McFarland, OSB, 94, a Benedictine Sister of Mount St. Scholastica, Atchsion, Kans., died Thursday, May 7, 2009, at the monastery. The vigil service will be Monday, May 11, at 7pm in the monastery chapel, and the Mass of Resurrection will be offered there Tuesday, May 12, at 11 am. (Note: This time is different from what was originally announced.) Teacher of mathematics and music, Sister Mary David was the last survivor of the founding staff of Lillis High School, Kansas City, Mo, serving there 1940-44, 1948-53, and 1969-74. 

Sister Mary David McFarland%2C OSBBorn in Monroe City, Mo., she was the youngest child of Ray and Anna F. Tinley McFarland. She entered the Mount community in 1935 and made monastic profession in 1936. She earned the AB in English from Mount St. Scholastica College, a Master’s degree in administration and a minor in mathematics from the University of Notre Dame, and certified in the counseling program at Northwest Missouri State. Her teaching career in Missouri and Kansas focused on mathematics and music; she was also principal, bookkeeper, and counselor. In Missouri she taught at Cathedral School and LeBlond High School, St. Joseph; St. Stephen, Monroe City (Swinkey); St. Joseph, Salisbury; and St. Gregory, Maryville. In Kansas she taught at St. Joseph High School, Shawnee; Baileyville High School; and Sts. Peter and Paul High School, Seneca. She assisted at Donnelly College and Mount St. Scholastica Academy before she began internal ministry at the monastery in 1993.

Sister Mary David was predeceased by her parents, her sister Mrs. John (Aleen) Rudolph, and her brothers Leo, Francis, Alvin, and Clyde. She is survived by her nieces Carol, Pat, Sarah, Mary Ann, and Carol Lynn; by her nephews Sonny (Alvin J.), James, and John; by many grand- nieces and nephews, and by her monastic family.

Memorials may be sent to Mount St. Scholastica. 

Let us remember her gratefully in our prayers. 


Sister Mary David's memorial card

“I am the vine, you are the branches;
. . . apart from me you can do nothing.”
John 15:5

With passion for her life as a Benedictine, relish for a good joke, zest for hard work and good times, and enthusiasm for whatever she was doing, Sister Mary David McFarland was a unique blend of discipline and compassion. Undaunted by illness and radically diminished sight, she was a trusted presence in community, and contributed to its life with direct comment and a merry heart. Baptized Lucille, she was born to Ray and Anna R. Tinley McFarland in Monroe City, Mo., and attended school there and in Maryville, Mo. Midway to her AB in English from Mount St. Scholastica College, she entered the Mount community in 1935. She earned the Master’s degree in administration and a minor in mathematics from the University of Notre Dame, and counseling certification from Northwest Missouri State University. A teacher for more than 50 years, Sister Mary David taught math and music in Kansas and Missouri high schools, serving also as principal, bookkeeper, and counselor. She was the last surviving Sister of the Lillis High school founding staff (1940). A lover of sports and reading, she came to be an avid fan of recorded books. Sister Mary David personified Irish delight in music, dance, and story-telling, for years regaling her audiences with her on-the-spot insight and humor. Let us remember her gratefully in prayer.

Reflection given at the Funeral Vigil

by Sister Noreen Hurter, OSB

This evening we come together, family, community, former students and friends of Sister Mary David. to remember her presence among us, to offer sympathy to one another and to rejoice in the glory to which she has been called. We remember especially Sister Evangeline, her classmate, and Sisters Rosaria and Lillian with whom she shared those early days of learning about community life. Because of her presence in so many ways to so many people Sister Mary David seemed to be a living legend, one that would always be with us. But as with others, God had other plans, better plans, to take her to Himself. and now it is difficult to realize that she is no longer with us.

This however is what she wanted as so many heard her say “I am 94 and I want to die.” Until rather recently, Sister Mary David could often be seen walking the halls, tall, straight, and with the purpose of remaining able to take care of herself and to keep her strength . She was proud of the fact that she could do this and often said so. Now she walks on a different terrain, with no problems accompanying her on her way. The Lord had heard her voice each time she said “I’m 94 and I want to die” but it wasn’t time yet, unknown to her and to us evidently there was still something more for her to do or to be. But it was on Thursday morning at about 10:30 that the Lord knew it was the right moment and He took her at her word and she went with Him.

Several times a month when I would be in the Library work room, I would hear a knock at the door, then the door would open and the voice would ask, is any one here? And I would answer, Yes, Sister Mary David I am back here. Then she would come with her soundmate, recorder, tape or whatever was giving her some difficulty and we’d work on it until it was working or until it was replaced by something that did work. There was always the gracious “thank you “ and she would leave.. I’m sure there was one of those gracious “thank you”s for the Lord when He finally came to respond to her wish, “I want to die.”

Sister Mary David loved people and enjoyed her ministries of praying, of living community,.of teaching and helping in so many ways. She loved her family, her community, her students, her friends and she loved being Irish, I don’t know for sure but I doubt if she ever forgot even one name of any of her students. She always knew we had been on mission together but when or where may not have been that easily remembered.. Whenever she knew that a former student of hers was ill or in need of prayers and thinking that that person may have been a student or mine she would say, “Do you remember ... ” and give a name and ask for prayers.

She entered here at the Mount in 1935, began teaching in 1938, and taught and/or administered in high schools and then, retiring from full time teaching, she taught the 4th grade in Maryville, MO. She enjoyed every level of teaching in her more than 50 years in that ministry. She always enjoyed going to reunions and visiting with many of those former students. She would say to someone else who was going to the same reunion, “stay with me and tell me who it is that is coming by.” Her very poor vision made that recognition impossible but she often remembered the voices of those she had taught and looked forward to visiting with everyone.

I first met Sister Mary David in Shawnee, my first full year on mission. I taught in grade school and was the organist and she was the director of music and taught a number of other classes in the high school. Every morning there was a high mass. Father Lutz, the Pastor, had his own tempo for the music, so I would watch Sister in the mirror, and she would watch Father in the Sanctuary and, together, we would produce the tempo he would like. It was an interesting way of doing things but most necessary.

Sister Mary David was a Missouri fan, in case anyone here did not know that. She wore her "M" proudly and any other indication that Missouri was her team. She would stand and wave her flag energetically every time Missouri scored but would leave the room when there was little or no chance of winning. Now, I’m sure that Missouri will do better since she is in a easier position to help them in their athletic difficulties.

Until a few years ago she would entertain the community with her dancing of the Charleston. Even last year she did a simplified version for the group. But in her hey day, it was the real thing! As many will also remember, she had a mind that retained jokes, and she could tell them in the manner they should be told. She’d meet me in the hall as she did many others and say, “I have to tell you this joke” or, “have I told you the joke about...”

An interesting statistic, I think, is that when Sister Mary David entered the community there were 110 Sisters in our cemetery, 474 have died since that time. So she knew those 474 plus all of us who are living today. She knew a large portion of our community from its begnning, in fact 641 Sisters of the total 751. We could say she knew our history, in person.

It is appropriate , I think, to reflect on Sister Mary David’s life with us in light of our many readings these past few days on the vine and the branches and Sister Suzanne Fitzmaurice’s beautiful reflection Saturday evening clarifying the story of the vine and its care. Sister Mary David had indeed been cut and pruned in many ways as she lived through the hassles of time , the changes and challenges, the joys and sorrows, successes and failures of her 74 years in community. It is interesting too that the quotation on her memorial card , “I am the vine, you are the branches, apart from me you can do nothing, “ was her own choice for the card.

There is much to be learned from reflecting on Sister Mary David’s presence in community. She was, a compassionate presence, a peaceful, loving, helpful and wholesome presence with and in the many communities, small or large, with whom she shared her life.. She was a caring teacher, one truly concerned about her students, as can be seen in the remembrances of those students even until the present time. Sister Mary David was an active and prayerful presence, reflected especially in her regular attendance at Eucharist and Office until very recently, She was always responsible in the carrying out of her duties, most recently in her care and concern for her laundry duties.

A very strong gift that Sister leaves us is that of her presence as herself. She knew who she was, knew her talents and abilities and how to share them in many ways She was, indeed, true to herself and, in so doing, was true to her Benedictine life, and to God present within her.

I think that if S. Mary David would speak to us tonight she might use the words of the reading from Phillipians and say to us,”Do not worry about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me and the God of peace will be with you.”

There are other words we heard that speak to her style and manner of life. From Jeremiah we heard of her singing and her calling to others to sing from the heights of wherever they were and the lives she touched and taught how to love and respect others, how she taught the young to dance as she danced, danced in action and in word and in song and how she brought joy to many lives, through her ability to turn mourning into joy, and gladness from sorrow.

Sister Mary David, you have gone from a physical presence among us but our remembrance of the beauty, love, sincerity and selflessness of your life will remain with us and with your help will influence our interaction with others. May you now rest in the peace of the Lord whom you loved and sought here and whom you have now found in His fullness.