Sister Mary Louise St. John

Was spiritual companion to gays and lesbians

Sister Mary Louise St. John, a member of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, died Sunday, September 14, 2003 of complications of muscular dystrophy. She was 60.

She was born March 13, 1943, in Glens Falls NY, daughter of the late Joseph and Alvarez DeMarsh St. John.

She entered the community of Regina Mundi in Devon in 1970. In 1978, she transferred to the Erie Benedictine community and professed her perpetual monastic vows at Mount St. Benedict in 1982.

She worked as a cytotechnologist at Regina Mundi in Devon from 1974 to 1976 and as a tutor there from 1976 to 1978. She also tutored students at Mount St. Benedict from 1979 to 1983, served as the business manager of the monastery's Benet Press from 1980 to 1985 and had ministered as a retreat guide and spiritual companion to gays and lesbians since 1985.

She was key to making the Womynspace Coffeehouse a reality in 1989, and she spoke at the 1998 Erie Pride Rally.

An advocate for the rights of people with physical disabilities, she was on the board of directors of Community Resources for Independence in Erie.

She is said to have received the heritage of a fighter from her mother, who fought for her daughter's right to an education at a time when persons with physical disabilities experienced serious discrimination in access to schooling. And throughout her life, she showed great will and ability to overcome the many obstacles she faced.

Those who knew her remember feeling great warmth and understanding from her.

Sister Mary Louise was preceded in death by a sister, Maria Alvarez St. John.

A service of memories was held September 15 at the Mount St. Benedict Monastery.

Memorials may be made to the Mount St. Benedict Monastery chapel renovation fund, 6101 East Lake Road, Erie PA 16511.

You may view or contribute to her guest book until October 15, by visiting

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