Botswana tribute to Tootsie

Posted by Spalding Hurst

August 26, 2020

Sisters and Associates in Botswana pay tribute to Mary Virginia (Tootsie) Gish, SCNA

The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, SCN Associates, and all those who knew Mary Virginia (Tootsie) Gish SCNA in Botswana were shocked and saddened by the sudden loss of their dear friend. Tootsie volunteered as a missionary in Botswana from 2006 to 2014. Loved by Botswana’s people, she freely entered into their lives, especially the poor and the oppressed. Tootsie attracted many people by her simplicity and friendliness.

Tootsie was a woman of faith and trusted in God. She lived a simple life with a minimum of possessions. She was very gifted and freely shared those gifts with all. She helped the SCNs, Associates, and preschool teachers with her skills in teaching and computer technology. She enjoyed cooking and volunteered to Brai (grill) in many gatherings, especially during the annual Easter Picnic for the Diocese priests and religious. The people of Ntlhantlhe village, where she ministered at a village preschool during her years in Botswana, will always remember her dedicated service to bring up the pre-school there. She also had a vital role in initiating the SCN Associate program in Botswana. 

Before she left Botswana in Feb. 2014, she told the SCNs, “I feel as if I re-joined the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.” She said the community spirit and unity touched her among the SCNs in Botswana, and she felt at home, and she would always cherish her time in Botswana. 

Tootsie loved Botswana, and she revisited Botswana in March through April 2019 to celebrate her 75th Birthday. A treat she gave to herself. SCNs and Associates made it very memorable for her as they gathered to celebrate her birthday in anticipation. They had lots of fun and laughter and enjoyed the time together. All were delighted to have Tootsie back for a couple of weeks. On her return to the US, she told her friends, “this was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life.” 

After hearing her departure from this world, SCNs and Associates in Botswana gathered in small groups in their geographical locations, to comply with the COVID-19 regulations, for memorial services and thanksgiving Eucharists. In their small groups, all SCNs and Associates recalled their fond memories of Tootsie’s life.

“Our dear Tootsie, though you are not with us, you will always live in our memories. May your soul rest in peace.”

SCNs and Associates in Botswana



  1. Mary Gene Frank, SCNA

    Tootsie: God’s gift has been reclaimed. Peace is the reward.

  2. Maria Brocato

    Thanks to all who shared these beautiful memories of our beloved Tootsie. How sorely she will be missed!

  3. Kitty Wilson

    I will always remember Tootsie as we collected recycling cardboard to buy sports uniforms for Pres girls. We coached sports together at Pres &, & even though I was the main coach; it was Tootsie who really coached. You are already missed, Tootsie. Heaven is privileged to have you.

  4. Evelyn Faldowski

    Tootsie & I met when I went to Botswana on the first mission trip to Africa. We became friends & then we both talked about wanting to visit the Sisters in India. This was on both of our bucket lists. We got the chance to go through the Global Exchange Program. We met in India; I flew from the US & she flew from Botswana. We spent over 2 months visiting the Sisters & the Missions there. It was the trip of a life time for both of us. We talked about our trip every time we saw each other at Nazareth later.
    I remember the first day we got there, the first thing the Sisters told us was “ don’t drink the water “. You guessed it, that’s the first thing Tootsie did. Then she blamed me saying, “ you should have reminded me “. I did…Then we both worried she would have stomach problems . I guess she didn’t drink enough to cause problems. She never did that again!!
    We had a wonderful time together during that trip & we became closer friends. She was a joy to be with & she taught me that the simpler we live our lives the happier & more fulfilled we will be. Thank you, Tootsie.

    God is blessing you, Tootsie. Rest In Peace.

  5. Jo Paulin

    Tootsie loved all of you. She requested to be buried in a bag she had brought back from Botswana. Her remains were carried by her brother, in the bag that she brought back from there that read “Woman Botswana.” Her brother lowered her cremains into the ground in that bag. Thank you for loving her. She loved each of you dearly. I am happy she got to go back to visit with all of you for her birthday.

  6. Connie Rotters Blake, SCNA

    Tootsie was such a gift to so many, willing to help in any way she could, willing to listen even when there were no words, willing to pray no matter when or where. Her laugh filled a room and her sensibility warmed the heart. Tootsie will be so dearly missed but she is with her Creator, her family and other loved ones. May she Rest In Peace and may her memory continue to be a blessing.

  7. Angie Shaughnessy SCN

    It was my privilege to have known Tootsie since 1972. She was missioned at Mother Catherine Spalding while I was at St. Mary’s Academy in southern Maryland. We had such good times. She was an ocean of common sense and practical spirituality. She was one of the most generous persons I have ever known. Rest In Peace, dear Tootsie.

  8. Ellen Sprigg

    I remember Tootsie planning her trip to go back to visit in Botswana, last year. Her face would light up in excitement and anticipation to be there again. One day she said, “I wonder if the children I taught will remember me”? When she returned, I asked her if they remember her and her face lit up again and said “Yes, Yes, they remembered me!” I will never forget that smile on her face. It was filled with so much peace and love. Thank you Tootsie for your beautiful life full of giving!

    • Charlotte Curtiss

      Being with Tootsie when she left this world was one of the hardest things I ever done. I know she was ready to leave this world and be with her creator but I wasn’t ready to let her go. With such a difference in age between us I was just getting to know her again. She asked me to be with her till the end and I did without reservation. Till the end she was Tootsie..worried about everyone but herself. Heaven has gained another ANGEL.

  9. Rita Canton

    Rest In Peace Tootsie.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like…

Empowering Women and Girls

Empowering Women and Girls

When one female is educated, it transforms an entire community.
The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth are investing in the professional training of teachers and the education of young children to help change communities in Botswana.

Leadership for Change

Leadership for Change

The Indian Nursing Council conducted the Leadership for Change program in collaboration with the International Council of Nurses. The program’s main aim was to strengthen and cultivate leadership skills and influence change to improve education and practice.