Mary Foeckler, SCN, (formerly Sister Paul Francis), 93, died on July 23, 2023, in Nazareth, Ky. She was a professed Sister of Charity of Nazareth for 67 years.
Born on Dec. 4, 1929, in Washington, D.C., Mary was one of six children born to Elizabeth and Francis Henry Foeckler. She had a love of sports, especially basketball, and attended schools that had prominent basketball and other sports programs.
Mary first learned about religious vocation during her junior and senior years at Sacred Heart Academy under the guidance of Sister Marie Walter and later the Rev. Paul Repetti. She also had the opportunity to be a counselor at Camp Maria and was impressed by the prayer life, joy of spirit and close-knit hospitality of the Sisters.
At the age of 23, she responded to her calling and entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. On her entrance day, Mary was remembered to have said, “This is the happiest day of my life!” In 1959, she made her perpetual vows at Nazareth.
Throughout her life, Sister Mary exemplified a deep love for learning and teaching. She pursued her academic endeavors with passion and earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish with a minor in English from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. She later attained a master’s degree in Secondary Education from Spalding College in Louisville, Ky.
Sister Mary’s ministry in education took her to various schools in Kentucky, where she touched the lives of countless students. She especially emphasized the importance of fostering school sports activities among youth.
She began her journey as a secondary education teacher at Sacred Heart Academy in Helena, Ark., in 1956. Her teaching journey continued, and she took up positions at schools such as St. Cecilia School in Louisville, where she served as principal, Owensboro Catholic High School in Owensboro, St. Mary High School in Paducah, and St. Gregory School in Samuels.
In 1980, Sister Mary began serving her community in a new way as Secretary General for the Congregation under the leadership of Sister Dorothy MacDougall.
Later on, Sister Mary’s focus in ministry shifted toward pastoral ministry as she began at Flaget Memorial Hospital in Bardstown, Ky. From 1991-2007, Sister Mary served as coordinator of the Outreach Program at the hospital. Her job involved assisting underserved populations in the Nelson County area, and she gained the nickname “Mother Teresa of Nelson County.”She also served as a dedicated volunteer for Federal Hill Nursing Home in Bardstown.
After her fruitful years of service, Sister Mary retired to the Nazareth Motherhouse Campus in 2007. Even in her retirement, she continued to inspire and care for those around her and always expressed thanks for the smallest gestures.
She considered her involvement in the mission and ministry of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth a privilege and joy. “I have been honored to care for the poor, to supply their needs, to provide spiritual and intellectual growth for my students,” Sister Mary shared in an interview in 2011. “I am thankful for my own personal, spiritual, and psychological growth. I have bonded with so many of my Sisters. I am totally grateful to God for everything; God has taken good care of me in every way!”
She is survived by her sister, Margaret Murphy; by her extended family; and her religious community, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.
Funeral arrangements were as follows:
The Wake was held Sunday, July 30, at 6:30 p.m. at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Nazareth, Ky.
The Funeral Mass was held Monday, July 31, at 10:30 a.m. at the church.
Burial followed in the Nazareth Cemetery.
Houghlin-Greenwell Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.