For Sister Mary Mandernach, retirement is a new beginning

Categories: Around the Diocese

By Kristi Anderson
The Visitor

Every day, Benedictine Sister Mary Mandernach gets up before the sun rises to spend time in private prayer before heading to the Chancery in St. Cloud, where she has worked in administrative roles for the Diocese of St. Cloud for 25 years.

Sister Mary announced that she will retire from her position at the end of May, but that is just the beginning of her new journey, she says.

In a bright colored folder, she keeps neatly organized copies of emails she receives regularly from Richard Johnson, a pioneer in maturing adult faith formation and spiritual gerontology. After attending a workshop he gave in 2008 at Diocesan Ministry Day, she subscribed to his emails and plans to use her retirement to study how to “live authentically in the second half of life.”

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In addition to her role as assistant chancellor of the diocese, Benedictine Sister Mary Mandernach’s voice has greeted people calling the chancery offices for the past 25 years. Photo by Dianne Towalski / The Visitor

“The second half of life is not a downhill slide; it’s more an ascent up a mountain, sometimes rugged, and always challenging; a journey that brings us to new heights so we can view a fuller panorama of God’s wonder,” she read from one of Johnson’s emails.

“That’s what I want to do now,” she said, “I want to embrace aging.”

Sister Mary, a native of St. Martin, taught in several Catholic elementary schools, led faith formation in parishes and worked with the developmentally disabled before accepting her current role at the Chancery in 1989, which was the year of the diocese’s centennial celebration.

“I remember walking in on my first day and there were centennial plates and candles and cookbooks everywhere,” she said.

She worked with three bishops over the years — past bishops Jerome Hanus and John Kinney and current bishop Donald Kettler.

“I really got to see and experience the different models of the church and learn what goes on behind the scenes — the nitty-gritty — that takes place so that we can all celebrate church,” she said.

As part of her ministry, Sister Mary is responsible for finding priests to substitute at Masses when needed, often reaching out to retired priests, who she says are great witnesses to living the senior years well.

“Their pastoral spirit is very alive,” she said. “They have so much energy and joy to continue to share the Eucharist and the sacraments with people.

“All of us, when we live our life for God, we see that things only keep getting better,” she said. “That’s not to say that life isn’t challenging. It’s a constant journey of dying and rising. Retirement doesn’t mean my life is over now. It is a new beginning.”