Sister Mary Clare McGuinness, OP (a.k.a. Sister Noel), sought God with all her heart. From childhood she looked for God in all sorts of the places: in nature, especially the stars, in her home, the parish church, the Eucharist, and in the stories of Jesus, Mary and the saints. Then she heeded God’s call to life as a Dominican and sought God there in silence, prayer, study, in her sisters, and the stories and example of Dominicans of old. Her quest for God continued in her years of ministry as a teacher and in the Renew International work with her dear friend, Msgr. Tom Kleissler.

Mary kept searching, and in her study of the Universe and its evolving reality, she found clues of God in many places and many new words to describe God’s presence. Franciscan Sister Illia Delio writes, “Every human life is a question about God and that question is answered by the engagement of life itself!” Mary’s quest for God, her questions about God, were answered in that engagement, not only her own life but, more especially, in the lives of those she loved. She never missed a McGuinness family gathering—birthday, graduation, and anniversary. Whatever the occasion, Mary was there to celebrate… to engage. She traveled to Ireland to engage with relatives there. She was intimately engaged in our congregational life: gatherings, jubilees, reunions, anniversaries, teaching. Whatever the occasion, Mary was there to engage. How often she met friends for lunch or for a book club gathering! From the chair in her living room, she had a great view of the trees, the birds and bee hives, the other animals—she engaged with them too. From that same chair, her prayer chair, she wrote notes and cards and chatted by phone with friends, family, always engaging. In that engagement with the ordinary times of life, Mary found glimpses of the God she sought.

We knew this woman, Mary, full of graciousness, poetry, insight, and love of people, of all creation, and love of God. She was filled with so many gifts and graces. Her gifts were placed at the feet of Jesus to be used for the preaching of the Good News.

Mary suffered during her long life too. Physical challenges, deaths of beloved family and friends, misunderstandings. Yes, Mary suffered and showed us how to do so graciously. Although her struggle to breathe caused many of us great concern, she persisted and that last breath was her first act of true freedom!

Mary lived, loved, suffered and died, always engaged with creation, with people, with God whom she sought. Now her life is permanently entangled with God’s life and the life of the whole universe. She joins in the great work of love, living beyond the bounds of space and time, permanently sealed on the heart of God whose only work is loving the world. In this love, Mary endures forever.

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