Sr. Mary Bride Grubbs, former chancellor, dies

By Patricia Kasten | The Compass | February 26, 2014

ALLOUEZ — Sr. Mary Bride Grubbs, described as a pioneer, model and mentor, and an advocate for lay leadership, died Feb. 18, in Panama City, Fla., after a long struggle with cancer.

Sr. Mary Bride Grubbs
Sr. Mary Bride Grubbs

Sr. Mary Bride, 74, served the Green Bay Diocese as a teacher, pastoral associate, the first diocesan parish director (now called pastoral leader), consultant for parish planning and collaboration, chancellor, and its first victim assistance coordinator when the safe environment department was created in 2003.

“I remember Sr. Mary Bride as a woman with endless love and compassion for everyone she served,” said Karen Bass, safe environment assistant. “In the difficult work of victim assistance coordinator, her unwavering care and support for those abused by clergy never ceased.”

Bishop Robert Banks, who appointed Sr. Mary Bride as parish director in 1986 and as chancellor in 2000, said, “Wherever she served, she is still remembered for the easy, friendly way in which she worked with people and made real the Lord’s love for them.”

“To the very end of her long illness,” he added, “she never lost her good humor and deep faith.”

Sr. Mary Bride was born Margaret Leona Grubbs on Sept. 6, 1939, in Cambridge, Ohio, to Clarence and Catherine (Hoey) Grubbs. She joined the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity in Manitowoc and later, was a leader in helping form A New Genesis community, under the guidance of the late Bishop Aloysius Wycislo in 1980. In 2005, she celebrated her golden jubilee of religious life.

On that anniversary, she wrote a reflection for The Compass:

“My active ministry as a religious began in the classroom with 54 third graders. It did not take me long to realize that God was calling me to serve him in ways beyond a particular classroom. … Over 30 years ago, I was able to bring these same gifts to persons living on the fringe and in the shadow of the church as I began ministry as a pastoral associate. In ministry, as the first parish director in the diocese (at St. Patrick Parish in Stephensville and, later, also at St. Denis, Shiocton), I helped introduce a woman’s perspective in parish leadership as a valid and timely role.”

Sr. Mary Bride felt strongly about the importance of shared ministry.

“Serving alongside a priest as a parish director was a powerful witness to the people of complementary ministry,” she wrote. “This was a new model of man and woman serving together in leadership. Parishioners were awakened to their responsibility to bring both masculine and feminine gifts to the community.”

In 1998, she joined the diocesan stewardship and pastoral services department and worked with Mark Mogilka, director, on parish planning.

“She played a key role working with me on the reorganization of many, many parishes — the linkages, consolidations, the closing of parishes,” Mogilka said, calling Sr. Mary Bride “a pioneer” and noting that she “played an important role, in a quiet and yet an appropriately assertive way, in terms of the role of women in the church. She spent a lot of time working closely with the bishop, the bishop’s advisory council, and the department heads, where she would always hold out for a bigger vision of church, a more inclusive vision of church.”

When Sr. Mary Bride was appointed chancellor — the third woman to hold that post in the diocese — she told The Compass, “My philosophy of spirituality is that we are given gifts, not for ourselves, but to share in any way we can.”

While still serving as chancellor, she later took on the newly formed assistance coordinator position. Of it, she later wrote, “I was able to listen and, to some, convey a sense of peace. The Holy Spirit was active again as this ministry just unfolded as I was serving as chancellor: God’s plan, not mine.”

God’s plan also included cancer, something Sr. Mary Bride did not shy away from speaking of or sharing the journey with many others with a cancer diagnosis. When she retired from the diocese in 2005, she had already been diagnosed for a year and undergone the first of many treatments.

“I never felt the power of prayer like I did through all of this,” she said at the time, adding how she had appreciated the support of co-workers — and people across the diocese. She expressed amazement at the cards and well wishes “from people I don’t even know.” She always wanted people to know that she continued to ask God’s blessings on each of them. This remained true when illness forced her to leave the area to live with her sister’s family in her final years.

From 2005 to 2010, Sr. Mary Bride served in parttime parish ministry at St. Paul Parish in Wrightstown and St. Mary in Greenleaf (now both St. Clare Parish). There, she worked with Msgr. John Schuh, with whom she had also worked at Xavier High School in Appleton and at the chancery.

“Through all those many years,” Msgr. Schuh said. “I was always impressed and inspired by her deep faith and her gentle but firm approach to all people and all things. Prayer was the center of her life, along with a deep love for the Eucharist. She was deeply involved in the daily life of the church, and yearned for its growth and development.”

As she left her position as assistance coordinator, Sr. Mary Bride said, “When we see the negative things, we know that we are all sinners. And yet God (still) works with us. He still brings life and we see it with parishes coming together. I see it with persons who have been so injured and traumatized in their own personal lives, (and yet) they cling to hope and have such a passion for wholeness of life.”

Ann Fox, who followed her in the position, called her a great mentor and “the most compassionate, faith-filled spiritual woman, always thinking of others.”

Sr. Marla Clercx, pastoral leader at Gillett, Mountain and Suring, is a fellow member of A New Genesis. “I think one of the things we, as A New Genesis, will miss most about her,” Sr. Marla said, “is the way she would calmly listen to all that was being said and then in a quiet but profound way, speak what needed to be said and heard. In her living and in her dying, she taught us what it meant to be a woman of faith and grace.”

Sr. Thea McQuistion and Sr. Carmelyn Gentrup, also of ANG, called her “a friend of many, many people” and “a pastoral and compassionate woman.”

Sr. Mary Bride is survived by her sister, Catherine (William) Whitmire, her brother, Patrick (Patricia), nieces, nephews, members of A New Genesis and countless friends.

Visitation will be Sunday, March 2, from 4 to 7 p.m. at Cotter Funeral Home at 860 N. Webster Ave., Green Bay. A 7 p.m. prayer service will follow. Visitation will continue from 9 to 10:30 a.m. at St. Clare Church, Wrightstown.

The Mass of the Resurrection will be held on Monday, March 3, at 10:30 a.m. at St. Clare. Bishop Robert Banks will be the celebrant.

Another Mass will be held March 8 at Christ the Light Parish in Cambridge, Ohio, with burial at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Cambridge.

A memorial fund has been established to “A New Genesis Community Endowment,” an endowment which Sr. Mary Bride researched and helped her community establish through the Catholic Foundation of the Diocese of Green Bay, P.O. Box 8642, Green Bay, WI 54308.

“It was her vision of continuing ministry,” explained Sr. Stephanie Spence, “to make sure A New Genesis would be able to continue to minister in the diocese, both now and beyond our lifetimes.”

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