Being a Benedictine for 75 years! Imagine that…consecrated to God and serving thousands of people for three-fourths of a century! This is the fascinating life of Sister Mary Jane Slaney.
Patrick Henry Slaney and Mary Faye Ryan Slaney were the proud parents of four children. S. Mary Jane grew up in a very religious family, with a heritage of several priests and sisters. She is the only living person of her immediate family.
Mary Jane was born in Melancthon Creek, Wis., on October 26, 1923. Her first eight years of schooling were in a one-room school. In 1938, at the age of 14, Sister entered the Scholasticate at Saint Benedict’s Monastery, St. Joseph, Minn., June 21, 1943, and became Sister John Marie. When other sisters went back to their baptismal names, S. John Marie went back to Mary Jane.
Her first teaching experience was third grade at St. Joseph School in St. Joseph. She had a wide range of students, teaching all grades from first grade through graduate school, as well as various subjects. Her teaching assignments were in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Sister was also librarian at Regis High School in Eau Claire, Wis., and at Springfield High in Springfield, Mo.
In 1975, Sister earned an M.Ed. in instructional resources at the University of Arkansas; in 1976, an Ed.S. degree in adult education. In 1981, she completed her doctoral degree in education. Upon receiving her doctorate, two students treated her to a trip to Ireland. She stayed in the Slaney Hotel at the top of Slaney Valley, which is named after her relatives.
In 1985, S. Mary Jane became the parish minister at St. Agnes Cathedral Parish in Springfield. This included many pastoral duties since the pastor was also the chancellor of the diocese. At the same time, Sister taught night classes at Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield.
While working at St. Agnes, Sister worked with the poor, the elderly, the sick and the dying. She helped establish several programs to assist in regular home visits, nursing home visits and letter writing to parishioners. She organized Eucharistic ministers to take weekly Eucharist to 105 shut-in patients, 27 nursing homes and 5 hospitals. Where did she get so much energy? Sister says, “From the Eucharist and the great faith of the people she worked with.” A parishioner remarked, “Sister Mary Jane is to us on earth what we believe Heaven will be to us.”
This sounds like a 24/7 job, but S. Mary Jane also found time for hobbies, which were reading, cooking, dog cuddling, crocheting and knitting. She crocheted hundreds of angels for cancer patients, nursing homes, newborn babies, parishioners and anyone in need. She also crocheted some for our sales here at Saint Benedict’s Monastery and Saint Scholastica Convent. Along with the angels, she made different sizes of pillows to prevent bed sores.
After leaving St. Agnes, someone remarked, “This is the end of an era!” As of December 2018, S. Mary Jane is now living at Saint Scholastica Convent in St. Cloud, Minn.