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Mary Schumacher, RSCJ

Sister Mary Schmumacher

2015 Jubilarian, Celebrating 50 Years as a Religious of the Sacred Heart

Born April 8, 1941, Mary Schumacher spent her childhood exploring the city of Chicago. After her mother died when young Mary was just six years old, her great-aunt assumed the role of caretaker to her and her older brother, George. It was at this point that her father, an electrician, turned to the parish for support. With his children, he would often attend daily mass. Just as the church was the center of her father’s life, the Catholic grade school Mary attended was hers. She would walk over a mile each day to get to school, often in rain, sleet, snow, and below-zero temperatures.

Although much of her early years were centered within a two-mile radius of her house, upon turning ten, Mary was given the freedom to explore. Alone, she would ride her bike to Lake Michigan, take the subway to downtown Chicago, and visit the Museum of Science and Industry. Always having a love for the game, she recalls playing softball in the alley with the boys in her neighborhood and frequenting Chicago Cubs games. In fact, there was one summer where she attended every home game, receiving a free pass to the next game after volunteering at Wrigley Field.

Mary’s father remarried when she was twelve, just before she entered eighth grade. During eighth grade, she sold the most subscriptions to the Catholic newspaper with the help of her great-aunt Martha. The prize for selling the most subscriptions was a four-year scholarship to Sacred Heart Academy. During high school, Sister Schumacher first experienced the Religious of the Sacred Heart. She felt that they were not “nunny” and noted how evident their concern for each person was. This proved to be one of the main reasons she later chose to join the Society.

The seeds of Mary’s vocation had actually been planted when she was still in elementary school. Throughout her twelve years of Catholic education, she was taught mainly by religious sisters. She learned through experience that nuns could be a source of comfort. After her first day of kindergarten, she found herself alone, as the person who was to walk her home had left without her. Later, she witnessed her mother’s fatal heart attack. On both occasions, the first person on the scene was a Catholic sister.

Mary joined the Society of the Sacred Heart on September 7, 1962 and made her first vows on August 22, 1965. After the novitiate, she returned to school to add a Master’s Degree in Religious Education. In 1967, she began teaching at Hardey Preparatory School for Boys in Chicago before leaving for Rome to make her final profession. She did so on August 22, 1971.

Sister Schumacher continued working in Sacred Heart schools until 1977. During this time, she served at Barat College in Lake Forest, Illinois as campus minister and at Duchesne Academy in Omaha. In 1977, Sister Schumacher began parish ministries at St. Columbkille in Papillion, Nebraska. Here, she was the Director of Religious Education, facilitated divorce groups, led RCIA, and coordinated volunteers. Additionally, she was on the building committee for the new church the parish was building. In 1987, Sister Schumacher graduated from Creighton University with a Master’s degree in Counseling. At this time, she began working with family services in Omaha as a therapist.

In 1989, Sister Schumacher moved to St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Skillman, New Jersey and continued her pastoral ministry. One year later, she began working at the Crawford House in Skillman as a therapist, working with both individuals and groups. In 1994, she moved to Philadelphia to work for ReEnter, Inc. to focus solely on spirituality groups.

Over the next twenty-four years, Sister Schumacher continued her counseling work. She worked at Libertae Inc. in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, Catholic Charities and Mount Carmel Guild in the Trenton, New Jersey Diocese, and the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California. Throughout her long career as a counselor, she has always placed an emphasis on building relationships with each person she encounters.  Displaying God’s love, through making meaningful connections, “involves courage, compassion, and connection,” she explains.

Although she has forged relationships while working in many different types of counseling—group and individual therapy, family orientation, domestic violence, grief groups—her passion lies in working with addicts to facilitate healing. She believes that "embracing pain is the touchstone of spiritual growth,” because vulnerability allows people to “connect with one another, heart to heart.”  Each day, she reveals God’s love in the world through displaying compassion for her clients and coming into communion with them through seeking to understand their unique needs. 

Currently, Sister Schumacher extends her loving compassion to others through providing spiritual direction, offering communion services for the elderly, leading RCIA retreats, and continuing counseling work in Palm Desert, California.  She recently became a member of the Desert Camera Club in Coachella Valley. TPhotography serves as a source of meditation for her, because it allows her to focus attentively on finding God in all things. 

Each of the different ministries that Sister Schumacher has participated in over the years (working in the classroom, parish ministry, and counseling) all tie into the four main goals that Saint Madeline Sophie originally established—education, working with the poor, communications, and retreat work. She believes that St. Madeleine Sophie would be proud of the women whom the Society has helped to form to continue her original ministry.