Remain faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life. REV 2:10

In Memoriam: Sister Mary Virginia Clark, D.C.

Picture1Sister Mary Virginia Clark died March 27, 2020, at Seton Residence, Evansville, Indiana. She was 93 years of age and 72 years vocation as a Daughter of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.

Affectionately known throughout her lifetime as “Ginny Girl” by her siblings, Sister Mary Virginia (baptized Virginia Dolores) was born April 3, 1926, in Webster Groves, Missouri (a suburb of St. Louis). The daughter of Harry Freeman and Ellen Catherine (Hurley) Clark. She graduated from Visitation Academy in St. Louis in 1943 and entered the Daughters of Charity from Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Webster Groves in September 1947. Following initial formation, Sister Mary Virginia served as an Elementary Teacher at St. Stephen Grade School, New Orleans, Louisiana (1948 to 1954) and Marian School in Montebello, California (1954 to 1959); during this time, she earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Education from Fontbonne College (now University) in St. Louis (1955). Sister continued with her studies while teaching; she earned her Master of Education Degree in Administration & Supervision from Loyola University in New Orleans (1964) and her Master of Arts Degree in Theology and Counseling from Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York, (1968).

From 1959 to 1971, Sister Mary Virginia served in education throughout the country: as Principal and Elementary Teacher at St. Thomas School, Long Beach, Mississippi (1959 to 1963); as Elementary Principal at St. Louise de Marillac School in St. Louis (1963 to 1969); as Elementary and Secondary Principal at St. Joseph Grade and High School in New Orleans (1969 to 1970); and as Elementary Principal at St. Ann School, Dallas, Texas (1970 to 1971). Sister was then missioned to El Paso, Texas where she would serve for the next 21 years, transitioning from the ministry of teaching to helping the poor of Texas and Mexico. Sister joined Jesuit Father Rick Thomas to assist with the struggles of the poor living in El Paso and Ciudad, Juarez, Mexico. She served at Lady’s Youth Center in Religious Education (1971 to 1978), as Elementary Teacher and Spiritual Counselor (1978 to 1979), and as Spiritual Counselor (1979 to 1988).

In 1988, Sister Mary Virginia was missioned to Amarillo, Texas, where she would serve for a year as Manager of a Homeless Shelter (1988 to 1989). In 1989, her determination to do more for neglected and abused women was realized with her founding of the Downtown Women’s Center in Amarillo.

Sister Mary Virginia’s efforts to address these women’s needs began by reaching out to a friend for help in purchasing land and two run-down structures for the Downtown Women’s Center administrative office building and Abba House shelter. Sister’s friend’s written response to her initial request for funding: “…from Proverbs 21:13, ‘If you refuse the poor when they have their hand out to you, I will refuse you when you have your hand out to me.’ The check will be in the mail,” he promised. On September 18, 1989, the buildings were purchased for $17,500 and Sister Mary Virginia would become the center’s Founder and Executive Director for the next 12 years (1989 to 2001). She would continue to serve as a Volunteer at the center for two years.

In 2003, Sister was missioned to St. Louis, where she served at both St. Vincent Parish as Volunteer and Moderator of the Ladies of Charity and at Guardian Angel Settlement Association as a Volunteer (2003 to 2011). In 2011, Sister entered the Ministry of Prayer at The Sarah Community in Bridgeton, Missouri, (2011 to 2017); in 2017, she was missioned to Seton Residence in Evansville, Indiana, where she would serve in the Ministry of Prayer until the time of her death.

Sister served on several boards of directors, including Hotel Dieu Hospital in New Orleans; Daughters of Charity Community Services in El Paso; and Catholic Family Services in Amarillo. She also served as Local Community Superior at St. Louise de Marillac Residence, St. Louis (1963 to 1969).

Sister Mary Virginia was preceded in death by her parents; four sisters, Marybeth, Jane, Francey, and Katy; a brother, Harry; a niece, Eileen Piccoli; and two nephews, Nicholas Clark and Andrew Clark. She is survived by her sister, Sister Mary Isabel Clark of the Visitation Monastery, Tyringham, Mass.; a niece, Lisa Clark, and a nephew, Matthew Clark; many friends; and her Sisters in Community. A Memorial Mass for Sister Mary Virginia will be scheduled in the future, following COVID-19 restrictions.