Sister Mary Roger reading the Scripture at St. Carthage Catholic Church, May 17, 1998. (Courtesy of Fr. Stephen Thorne)

Recently, I gathered with my brother priests for a meeting to continue the conversation on pastoral planning for our Archdiocese. The meeting began with Dan Celucci, CEO of the Catholic Leadership Institute, reading a portion of the “Joy of the Gospel” by Pope Francis that helped describe a Missionary Disciple.

Our Holy Father wrote:

The Church which “goes forth” is a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice. An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first (cf. 1 Jn 4:19), and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast. (24)

As I listened to these words and reflected on them, I immediately thought of Sister Mary Thibodeaux, SBS. Sister passed away early in the morning on March 11, the 58th anniversary of professing her vows as a Sister of the Blessed Sacrament, founded by Saint Katharine Drexel.

“Evangelization is not an item of the agenda, it IS the agenda.”

She was known nationally as a leader in evangelization for the Church, especially the African American Catholic Community. She would often say that we must go out with joy and attract people to Christ. No one wants to follow a “grumpy Christian.” She would challenge us not to be afraid to talk openly about Jesus and the Sacraments. She would instruct us to walk the streets and go “block by block” and invite people to come to our Churches. Sister was a true Missionary Disciple not just by words, but most importantly by example. Sister knew that evangelization is not an item of the agenda, it IS the agenda.

I asked Sister Mary Roger to proclaim the Second Reading at my Mass of Thanksgiving in 1998. I was honored to celebrate and preach her Funeral Mass. And yes, I began ON TIME!

May Sister Mary Roger rest in peace and may we get to work!


Father Stephen Thorne, Ed.D, is the pastor of Saint Barbara Catholic Church in Wynnefield and co-chairs the Archbishop’s Commission on Racial Healing.