In Loving Memory…

Sister Mary Brooks, CSC; Main headshot image for post

Sister Mary Brooks, CSC

Funeral Arrangements

Friday, September 9, 2022 

Mass of the Resurrection, 10:30 a.m.
Church of Our Lady of Loretto
Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana 

Visitors are welcome; please adhere to mask and social distance guidelines while in the church.

You may view the livestreamed Mass on YouTube.

Read the memories shared at Sister Mary's funeral. 

Sister Mary Brooks, CSC

(Sister William Mary) 

June 29, 1933–August 30, 2022 

We share news of the death of Sister Mary Brooks, CSC, who died at 9:14 p.m. on August 30, 2022, in Saint Mary’s Convent, Notre Dame, Indiana. Sister Mary entered the Congregation from Albert Lea, Minnesota, on January 30, 1953. Her initial profession of vows took place on August 15, 1955.

Please join us in prayer for Sister as we renew our faith in the resurrected Jesus and strengthen our hope that all the departed will be raised to eternal life.

Mary Katheryn Brooks was born to parents William James Brooks and Katheryn McDonough Brooks on June 29, 1933, in Des Moines, Iowa. While she was young, the family, which included her older brother William, moved to Albert Lea, Minnesota, where her father was a railroad engineer. Here, she attended St. Theodore Elementary School and Albert Lea High School, graduating in 1951. During these years, she engaged frequently in horseback riding at nearby farms. She also enjoyed playing the piano. After completing high school, she enrolled in a nursing education program at St. Mary’s School of Nursing in Rochester, Minnesota, sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis of Rochester. Here, Mary met Sister M. Agnes Anne (Roberts), CSC, who was an intern at the hospital. As Mary began to consider a religious vocation for the first time, she followed Sister Agnes Anne’s suggestion that she visit the motherhouse of the Congregation to meet other Holy Cross sisters and to find out more about the order. Her visit to Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana, determined her decision to enter the Congregation in 1953. She made her initial profession of vows on August 15, 1955, receiving the religious name Sister William Mary. She returned to her baptismal name in 1968 when the option became available and later dropped Katheryn from her name.

Sister Mary became a registered nurse in 1958, earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing in 1960 from Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame. The first years of her ministry until 1965 found her serving as a nurse in Indiana at St. John’s Hospital in Anderson, St. Joseph’s Hospital in South Bend, and Saint Mary’s Convent. For the next two years, she studied at St. Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri, earning a master’s degree in hospital administration in 1967. She was then appointed chief executive officer of Holy Cross Hospital, Jacksonville, Illinois. She was asked to coordinate the merger of the hospital with Passavant Area Hospital, also in Jacksonville. With the completion of the merger in July 1968, she was named assistant administrator of Holy Cross Hospital in Mission Hills, California. One year later, she took the position of chief executive officer at St. John’s Hospital, where she served until 1978. In 2007, a gift of $40,000 was made to the hospital in her honor by Robert and Charlotte Austin. Robert, a former board chair of St. John’s, said of Sister Mary: “I was always impressed with her kindness and ability to guide people through the decisions and changes that needed to be made.”

Sister Mary was a person of many interests. These included traveling, taking photographs, visiting family and friends, playing computer games and watching sports, especially Notre Dame football. She wrote many letters descriptive of her life and ministries. Within the local communities she belonged to, she was an engaged member.

Sister Mary had resigned from St. John’s Hospital to be a part of the beginning of the Holy Cross Health System Corporation in 1978. The corporation was established for the coordination and direction of the Congregation’s hospitals throughout the United States. As vice president for apostolic effectiveness, Sister Mary developed programs for ministry tailored to the needs of the various hospitals. Early in 1980, she took a leave of absence to volunteer to serve Cambodian refugees in Thailand. She was a member of the second group of Holy Cross sisters to give a three-month period of service under the leadership of Catholic Relief Services. As medical director, she traveled from Bangkok, Thailand, to the refugee camps to assess the needs of the people and coordinate the delivery of medical services and supplies. She said that the extreme poverty of the people and the brutality she witnessed became a lifelong learning experience for her. After her return to the Holy Cross Health System, she took on the position of interim CEO for the remainder of 1980 during the search for a new CEO. She continued as vice president for apostolic effectiveness until September 1982. 

Recognizing the need for an assessment of her future ministry service, she requested sabbatical leave and spent a year at Regis College in Toronto, Canada. The program provided her with an update in Scripture, spirituality, and theology and training in spiritual direction. Convinced of her desire to minister closely with people in the field of spirituality, she requested and received permission to pursue a master’s degree in theological studies with a concentration in spirituality from the Weston Jesuit School of Theology, Cambridge, Massachusetts. After earning this degree in 1987, she served a year as director of continuing education at the House of Affirmation, Natick, Massachusetts, where she prepared others for work in ministry. Then she moved to Notre Dame to serve as the director of Mary’s Solitude Prayer Center. In this capacity, she developed and conducted spiritual renewal programs for individuals and groups, as well as engaging in spiritual counseling. Three years later in 1992, she left to assume the position of associate director of the Office of Spiritual Development, Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, located in South Bend. This ministry involved working with diocesan parishes, providing programs and support in spirituality. Sister Mary held this position for 16 years, resigning in 2008 in response to a need of the Congregation. For the last five years of her public ministry, she served as director of mission services for the Sisters of the Holy Cross Corporation at Saint Mary’s. She worked with employees to educate and instill within them an understanding of and adherence to the mission and core values of the Sisters of the Holy Cross. Sister Mary was also a member of the Angela Area Council of the Congregation from 2005 to 2009. Since retirement at the end of 2013, she had devoted herself to the ministry of prayer at Saint Mary’s. Now she enjoys resurrected life with her Creator.

We invite you to donate to the Ministry With the Poor Fund in Sister’s name.

—Written by Sister Grace Shonk, CSC