The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa


March 12, 2013

Sister Mary Virginia Smith

CLINTON — Aug. 27, 1936 - March 10, 2013

Sr. Mary Virginia Smith, age 76, of Clinton, passed away Sunday, March 10, 2013, at The Canticle.

A Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Friday, March 15, 2013, at the Prince of Peace Parish; the Monsignor Frank Henricksen will officiate. Visitation will be held on Thursday, March 14, 2013, from 3 to 5 p.m. at The Canticle, 843 13th Ave. North, Clinton, where a 3:30 p.m. Rosary will be recited and 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Prince of Peace Parish where a 7 p.m. Scripture service will be held. The Pape Funeral Home is assisting. Burial will be held at St. Irenaeus Calvary Cemetery. Casket bearers will be relatives, friends and members of the Sisters of St. Francis, Clinton. Online condolences may be left at

Mary Virginia Smith was born August 27, 1936, in Lourdes, Iowa, the second of 11 children born to Clement and Mabel (Tierney) Smith. She was baptized at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Lourdes, Iowa, on August 30, 1936. Her siblings included brothers Clement, Thomas, Dennis, Paul, Francis and Patrick and sisters Bernadette, Margaret (Elaine), Mabel (Annie) and Rosemary.

She entered the Sisters of St. Francis at Mount St. Clare Convent, Clinton, Iowa, on September 8, 1955, and received the name Mary Clement at her reception on June 15, 1956. She later resumed her baptismal name. She made her first profession on August 12, 1958, and her final profession on August 12, 1961. Her novitiate classmates were Sisters Marcella Marie Narlock, Ann Marie (Alice) Weber, Christopher (Elizabeth) Skube, Ida Green, Mary Mel McMillan, Virginia Krakow and Maria (Teresa) Trimble.

She attended Our Lady of Lourdes Schools, Lourdes, Iowa, through 10th grade and graduated from Mount St. Clare Academy, Clinton, Iowa, in 1955. After entering the Sisters of St. Francis, she attended Mount St. Clare College, earning her AA in 1958. She received a B.A. in music education from the University of Iowa in 1967.

Sister Mary held an Iowa Permanent Professional Teaching Certificate and began her ministry as a Sister of St. Francis teaching music at the elementary and high school levels. She served at the Mount St. Clare Academy, Clinton, Iowa; St. Patrick’s, Perry, Iowa; and Our Lady of Good Counsel, Fonda, Iowa.

After earning an M.A. in religious studies from Mundelein College, Chicago, Illinois, she continued her education at St. Bonaventure University in New York and in Assisi, Italy. Upon returning to Clinton, she held the position of formation director for the congregation from 1976 to 1981. In 1980, she was elected vice president of the Sisters of St. Francis and from 1981 to 1988 served as president of the congregation. In May 1987, Sister Mary was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humanities from St. Ambrose University “for her never-ending search for better ways to serve God, humankind and her religious order.”

Following her terms as president of the Sisters of St. Francis, Sister Mary undertook further study at the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley, California. Her later ministry centered in  the area of spiritual direction and retreat work at the Franciscan Canticle in Victorville, California; the Franciscan Renewal Center, Portland, Oregon; and the Hearth in Portland, Oregon. She was also a spiritual director and retreat leader at the Canticle in Clinton, Iowa.

In 2008, Sr. Mary was re-elected to leadership as a member of the General Council and in 2012 became the vice president and a member of the General Leadership Team.  During all of her years in leadership and spiritual direction, she also served as organist for many of the congregation’s liturgical celebrations. In the final months of her life, Mary continued to model servant leadership through her courageous acceptance of her final illness as she completed her journey to eternal life. Sister Mary died peacefully at the Canticle surrounded by family and friends on Sunday, March 10.

Left to honor her memory are her siblings: Clem (Judy) Smith, Bernie (Bob) Voves, Elaine (Mike) Farrington, Dennis (Marie) Smith, Paul (Nancy) Smith, Francis (Carol) Smith, Annie (Charles) Riley, Rosie (Mike) Zeimetz and Pat (Barb) Smith; her sister-in-law, Shirley Smith; many nieces and nephews; and the Sisters of St. Francis with whom she shared life for over 57 years.

She was preceded in death by her parents and by her brother, Tom, who died on March 9, 2013. Her aunt, Clinton Franciscan Sister Edward Smith, is among other relatives who welcome her home.  

Death date: March 10, 2013

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