Sister Marie Kathryn St. Leger died on January 26, 2022, at Saint Joseph Villa; liturgy of the Resurrection and burial took place on January 31.
Marie, the only child of Edward and Marie McEwan St. Leger, grew up in the Olney section of Philadelphia, in St. Helena Parish. She attended St. Helena School and Little Flower High School, graduating from the latter in 1957. In September of that year, she entered the Sisters of Saint Joseph.
Marie and S. Kathryn Miller were friends and companions from the days when they were little more than toddlers. They literally lived across the street from each other and waved and smiled to each other before they were old enough to cross the street (neither heavily trafficked nor too wide) and to play together. Each day ended with walking each other home. As they grew up, they walked together to St. Helena School, to daily Mass. Marie’s mother asked her why they just didn’t meet at church. Her answer was, “No, Mom, we have to walk together”. The concept continued to guide her for the rest of her life.
Marie entered the Sisters of Saint Joseph in 1957. She received a bachelor’s degree in history from Chestnut Hill College, and a master’s degree from Villanova in education administration; later she received a second masters in spirituality and a certificate in spiritual direction from Neumann University. She put this education to good and practical use through her ministry of teaching at St. Carthage and at Stella Maris schools, at Queen of Peace, Middle River and later as principal at St. Hilary school in Rydal. In 1983, she was asked to go to North Carolina, where she served as principal at St. Ann, Charlotte and at St. Thomas More, Chapel Hill. She later recalled as she wrote her life history, “The 15 years I spent in North Carolina were the greatest in my life.” They were life changing because she had the opportunity to develop gifts that she didn’t know she had. She was on the Board of the Principal’s Association in both dioceses, on the Diocesan School Board and Planning Committee for Regionalization of schools in the Raleigh Diocese. However, a truly big moment came when she received a letter informing her that she had been selected as Region IV recipient of the 1994 NCEA Principal Award.
All these many experiences stood her in good stead when she left her beloved North Carolina to become pastoral assistant at Queen of Apostles Parish in Pennsville, NJ. She walked with the parishioners on their journeys, having communion services, offering graveside prayers, as well as other duties when the pastor couldn’t be present.
Marie went to the Villa in 2009, for a few weeks of physical therapy. She realized, during this period, that she could not continue in her ministry nor fulfill her responsibilities in community life and decided to remain at the Villa as a resident. During the next ten years, she was an active member of the Holy Spirit community and continued to be involved — working on the Chance Drive, serving as a lector at Mass, assisting with record keeping for the Physical Therapy Department, accompanying Sisters to their doctor appointments, the latter being her favorite because she could meet new people, always with the opportunity to walk with them.
In her eulogy of Marie, Sister Kathryn Miller quoted 20th century spiritual writer, Ram Daas, “We are all just walking each other home.” Sister Kathryn went on to say that these words indeed provided a context for Sister Marie’s life. She walked so many home: relatives, friends and families, hundreds of children, numerous teachers, the elderly, sick and dying. Now, she is, herself, home. Rest in peace, Marie.