Sister Mary Collins, OSB

September 16th 1935 – May 2nd, 2024

Sister Mary Collins, OSB, 88, a Benedictine sister of Mount St. Scholastica, Atchison, Kan., died Thursday, May 2, 2024, at the monastery. The vigil service will be Thursday, May 16, at 7:00 p.m. in the monastery chapel, and the Mass of Resurrection will be celebrated there on Friday, May 17, at 10:30 a.m.

Sister Mary (Mary Dennis) was born in Chicago, Ill., on Sept. 16, 1935. After graduating from Mount St. Scholastica College, she entered the Benedictine sisters in Atchison in 1957. She taught high school several years before beginning her doctoral studies at the Catholic University of America. After earning her Ph.D. in liturgical theology, she taught religious studies at Benedictine College and the University of Kansas. In 1978, she became associate professor of religious studies at the Catholic University of America and in 1983 became chair of the Department of Religion. After a short period in North Carolina, she returned in 1987 to the Catholic University of America, where she taught until she was elected prioress of the Mount St. Scholastica monastery in Atchison, Kan., in 1999. A significant figure in the broader world of Benedictine women, she was first councilor for the Federation of St. Scholastica for twelve years and a consultant or author for many of their documents. Sister Mary was a member of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) and belonged to several professional theological organizations. She wrote, collaborated on, or edited a large number of articles and books on religion and liturgy for which she was widely known. She also received many awards, including honors from the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, the Notre Dame Center for Pastoral Liturgy, and the North American Academy of Liturgy.

Sister Mary was preceded in death by her parents, Lauretta (LaCosse) and Homer Collins and a brother, Michael Collins. She is survived by her brother John Collins, Oak Brook, Ill., by nieces and nephews, and by her monastic family. Arensberg-Pruett Funeral Home (www.arensbergpruett.com) is in charge of arrangements. Memorials may be sent to Mount St. Scholastica or made online at the Mount’s web site (www.mountosb.org).

Reflection for the Funeral Vigil 

Sister Mary Collins, OSB 

May 16, 2024 

Isaiah 35:1-10; Romans 8:18-27; John 15:4-5; 7-10  

We gather tonight to remember our Sister Mary Collins, a community member, a former  prioress, a renowned liturgical theologian, an excellent and challenging teacher, a Federation  Council members who helped us to respond to the call of Vatican II to reform our monastic way  of life. We want to offer our condolences to her brother, John, her sister in law, Jennifer, all her  nieces and nephews of whom Mary’s niece Julie and husband Mike are with us tonight, to her  classmates, Sisters Irene, Mary Grosdidier, Sylvia, and at Benet Hill, Sisters, Evangeline, Lucille  and Mary Jane, as well as to all her former students, colleagues and friends. We all have our  own memories, many have shared them online and many we will share later this evening.  

Time is a mystery. I think of times I spent with Mary at Catholic University, where she taught  one of best courses I ever took, of living with her at Taussig Place in D. C. where I learned so  much about liturgy and ecclesiology from table conversations, or of conversations in the car as I  drove her to the airport where she flew to another meeting or another speaking engagement, in North Carolina where we attempted to establish a new foundation, and time on the monastic  council when she was prioress.  

Mary grew up in a Catholic parish in Chicago went to Catholic schools and then came to Mount  St. Scholastica College where she graduated in 1957 with a degree in English. She entered the  monastery in 1957, right before Vatican II. She taught in various parish schools before being  sent to Catholic University to study theology…she didn’t know what kind of theology (she told  me) but she chose liturgy. She came back to the Mount to teach in the college filled with the  excitement of Vatican II and its promise for the church. Mary’s insight and enthusiasm helped to  enkindle that spirit of Vatican II in her students and in the community… to the delight of many  and the chagrin of some. 

And then she received a call to teach at Catholic University and a call to serve on the Federation  Council as our communities strove to respond to the call for reform in the light of the signs of the  times. She was a major writer of our Call to Life documents as well. Her teaching and  scholarship affected the lives and teachings of many. You have read of many of her  accomplishments in her obituary.  

In an article Mary wrote in 1982, she talks about liturgy as remembering where God has been  with us in our lives, as well as the lives of people in history, and all around the world, sometimes  rescuing, sometimes disciplining, always loving. In the liturgy we celebrate God’s plan for our  future, and we remember God’s work in our lives, in our successes and failures, God’s  forgiveness and work to deliver us. The world is groaning in labor pains but in the liturgy we  celebrate our memories of God’s actions in our past and our faith in God’s plan for our future. 

We are all jointed together in this great vine—remembering how God has been with us in the  past and looking forward to how God will be with us, in a future we may not know how to  imagine. We really don’t know the future. And it can be scary—but we can be confident of  God’s care, not just for me, but for all of creation.  

In Eucharist we remember God’s love for us in Jesus, we receive his very body and blood into  us, so they become part of our very being. And we are sent out as part of that vine that reaches  around the world, to be Christ’s presence in the world.  

Thank you, Mary, for sharing your life and ministry with us, for helping us all to grow in our  understanding and love for the liturgy and for our lives as monastic women.  

Eleanor Suther, OSB