Sister of Charity Mary Bookser Celebrates Diamond Jubilee
As she reflects on her 60 years as a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati, Sister Mary Bookser (formerly Sister Jean Maria) says, “I remember many years ago hearing a song. The key words still fill my heart and soul, ‘Did I fill the world with love, my whole life through?’ This song has merged with what I see my role as a Sister of Charity to be: the heart and hands and the voice of Jesus; to bring the Gospel to life in whatever I do.”
Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Sister Mary and her family moved to Springfield, Ohio, where she attended St. Teresa Elementary School and later graduated from Springfield Catholic Central High School in 1962. “I heard an internal quiet whisper, what I now would call a whisper from the Holy Spirit, urging me to check out the Sisters of Charity before I made any life decisions,” Sister reflects. That urging led her to enter the Community in September.
Sister Mary received her bachelor’s degree in music education from the College of Mount St. Joseph (now Mount St. Joseph University) in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1968 and her master’s of education in guidance counseling from Xavier University, also in Cincinnati, in 1978. In 1986, Sister received a master’s degree in theology from Xavier University, and in 1997, she earned her PH.D. in women’s studies, literature and spirituality from the Union Institute and University, also in Cincinnati.
Sister Mary began her education ministry as a secondary teacher at Seton High School in Cincinnati in 1967. She went on to minister at Holy Angels High School, later called Lehman High School due to a merger, in Sidney, Ohio, from 1968-’73. Sister taught as a secondary teacher at Mt. Notre Dame High School in Cincinnati from 1974-’79.
Sister Mary spent 20 years of her ministry at the College of Mount St. Joseph where she served at various times as the director of the Liberal Studies program. In that capacity she taught, advised and counseled adult women in the program. In her final years at the college (2004-2011), Sister Mary was in charge of the Service Learning Program.
In 2001, Sister Mary received the Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Member award in recognition of her teaching performance as an adjunct in the Religious Studies Department there.
“It was quite an honor to have received an award for doing something that I love. I loved teaching and I loved working with the students,” she reflected. “I loved trying to build community with them and helping them tap into the awareness and deepening of their own spirituality.”
For eight years (1994-’02) Sister served as director of Initial Formation for her Community assisting young women in learning about or joining the Congregation. “I got to meet with women who were so deeply spiritual and searching for where God was calling them to best become a Gospel light,” Sister Mary said. “Sometimes it was hard because the women looked at the Church and did not always see Vatican II in action, but I had to remind them and myself that all of us are the Church and our call is to live the Gospel to the best of our ability.”
In 2003, Sister Mary served as a fulltime counselor for Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. Half of her time was spent working with students in the general population and the other half was to work with the student athletes.
In 2011 she began a new ministry as executive counselor with the Leadership Team of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati. She said the call of the Gospel to love all people and all God’s creation, along with the words of our founders, Saints Vincent de Paul and Elizabeth Ann Seton, informed her prayer each day and guided her life. Sister Mary served in this role for two four-year terms.
One of the highlights of her work in Leadership was as a member of the congregation’s Green Team. The team worked with a local consultant to reduce the Community’s carbon footprint and bring green energy solutions to the Mount St. Joseph campus. Sister Mary was also happy to have worked in the planning and enfleshing of the Community’s Liaison program: the pastoral arm of SC Leadership for the past decade. She not only helped start the program but was the Liaison communicator and a contact Leadership Council member for one of the groups.
While on the Leadership Team, Sister Mary began serving as an adjunct teacher in Religious Studies at Mount St. Joseph University, a role she continues to fill today. In her leisure time, Sister Mary enjoys music, reading mysteries and historical fiction, swimming, walking in nature and spending time with family and friends.