Sr. Mary Maurita Sengelaub, RSM, died peacefully at McAuley Life Center in Farmington Hills on July 6, 2019, prayerfully surrounded by Sisters and staff.
Her 101 years began on June 28, 1918, as Katherine, the first child of Henry and Cecelia (Kailey) Sengelaub. She enjoyed a happy childhood on their farm near Reed City, Michigan, with her brother Aiden and two sisters, Barbara and Regina. After high school graduation, young Katherine helped on the farm and with caring for sick relatives. Her parents, however, insisted she have further education, and so she enrolled in St. Mary's School of Nursing in Grand Rapids. Upon graduation, she became a clinical nursing supervisor and instructor of nursing at Bay City's Mercy Hospital. It was here that she began to seriously consider religious life.
On September 7, 1945, Katherine came to the Sisters of Mercy Novitiate in Detroit, Michigan. After her initial years as a Sister of Mercy she received the name, Sister Mary Maurita, and was assigned to continue in healthcare ministry. The motto she had chosen for her final vows, "All for You, O Jesus," served as her guide through the next 52 years of dedicated service to the poor and sick.
Sister Maurita's leadership abilities in nursing led to her next assignment, earning a master's degree in hospital administration at St. Louis University in 1953. She returned to Michigan and held several administrative positions in Mercy hospitals including service as president of St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Rapids. In 1961 she was named assistant provincial of Detroit and thus began a series of broader involvement in healthcare responsibilities.
In 1965 she was elected to serve on the leadership council for the Sisters of Mercy of the Union. While in this position she became increasingly aware of the plight of migrant workers and became involved with an effort by the United States Department of Health Education and Welfare and the Conference of Major Superiors of Women to meet their needs. Together a plan was conceived to provide a broad approach for assisting migrant workers. This plan, called the East Coast Migrant Health Project, expanded to the entire United States and continues to this day.
Sister Maurita had less than a year left in her term of office when she was asked to serve as president of the United States Catholic Hospital Association. In accepting this position, she became the first woman to serve in this capacity. During this time, Sister Maurita's leadership abilities became recognized nationally and internationally as she developed and strengthened Catholic leadership through the Catholic Healthcare Services Leadership Program. She also strengthened or created assistance to Catholic hospitals through Pastoral Care Services and a Department of Medical-Moral Principles and Ethics. Health reasons caused her to resign from this position in 1977, after seven years of outstanding service.
After a period of recovery, she was chosen to serve again on the Detroit Provincial Council. During this time, her responsibilities included working with the newly developing Sisters of Mercy Health Corporation, the Migrant Workers Project and the Michigan Catholic Conference Board of Trustees.
She continued her involvement with the healthcare system after completing her term of office and was consultant and collaborator for the organization from 1981-1988. There she chaired the system's subsidiary, Mercy Collaborative Services, which later became Mercy International Health Services. In 1988, at age 70, she responded to a request for assistance from the Sisters of St. John of God to help them establish a system for their nine hospitals in Western Australia.
After completing this two-year challenge, she became justice coordinator for the Detroit Province from 1990-1995 and moved into semi-retirement. Here she accepted responsibility to serve as a trustee for several Mercy hospitals in Western Michigan and became an advisor to many young persons in healthcare ministry.
At the turn of the century, Sister Maurita retired to McAuley Life Center, continued to serve her Sisters whenever she could and enjoyed their lifelong companionship. Her lifetime motto, "All for You, O Jesus," continued to guide her as it had for so many years, to accept God's will in her journey of faith.
Sister Maurita is fondly remembered as a woman of gracious hospitality, one who gave her full attention to each person and each new idea. Although she was extremely capable, she was also unassuming, always crediting the grace of God for her gifts. She kept up with healthcare developments, enjoyed playing cards, good conversations and travel as well as time for prayer and reflection.
Sister Maurita is survived by many cousins, colleagues and her Mercy Community.
A welcome home service will be held at 3 p.m. Wednesday, July 10, followed by a vigil service at 7 p.m. at Sacred Heart Chapel of McAuley Center, 28750 W 11 Mile Road, Farmington Hills, Michigan 48336. A visitation will take place Thursday, July 11, at 9 a.m., followed by Mass of Christian Burial at 10:30 a.m. and Mercy Center Chapel, 28600 Eleven Mile Road, Farmington Hills, Michigan 48336 (enter through the D Wing door under the blue Mercy Center awning).