Sister Mary Louise (Mary Matthew) Degenhart, ASC, of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, died at 12:35 p.m. at Benedictine Living Community, Belleville, Illinois, on March 31, 2023. She was 85 years old and had been professed for 68 years. She was one of four children born to the late Albert and Rose Ann (Ewald) Degenhart of Dahlgren, Illinois. She made her first profession on July 1, 1957 and her final vows on July 1, 1959 at Ruma, Illinois.
Sister Mary Louise received her Bachelor’s Degree in Pharmacy from the St. Louis College of Pharmacy in 1960, and her Master’s in Business Administration from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois, in 1977. She also held a teacher’s certificate for grades 6-12 in the state of Illinois.
She served as pharmacist at St. Joseph Memorial Hospital in Murphysboro, St. Clement (now Red Bud Regional) Hospital in Red Bud, at the University of Chicago Hospital in Chicago, and St. John Hospital in Springfield, all in Illinois, for almost 30 years.
Her excellent administrative and organizational talents were most evident to the ASC community as she arranged the site, meals and meeting rooms for the annual Assembly, open to the entire membership.
She also held professional positions, including the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists Organization in Bethesda, Maryland, from 1989-1995, where she served as a Team Member of Accreditation Services. In 1995, the ASC community named her as their Health Services Executive Director. Following that assignment, she returned to a position in Accreditation Services for the American Society of Health System Pharmacists, this time as a Contract Surveyor in St. Louis, Missouri, for almost 20 years.
Sister Mary Louise then accepted the opportunity to join the Precious Blood Center of Reconciliation in Chicago as a Minister of Reconciliation for seven years.
In addition to serving as Executive Director of ASC Health Services, Mary Louise’s community service included being a member of the Novitiate Community Support Team in Belleville, Illinois.
She was acclaimed by President Debra Devereaux as an Honorary member of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. Sister Mary Louise was also one of the founders of the Southern Illinois Society of Hospital Pharmacists and the Illinois Council of Health-System Pharmacists.
Her final ministry was as Special Assistant to the President of the University of Health Services and Pharmacy; she served in that position for more than 10 years.
One of the proudest moments in her long ministry as a pharmacist occurred as David Allen, President of the University of Health Services and Pharmacy, named her the inaugural recipient of the “Sister Mary Louise Degenhart, B.S. ’60 President’s Leadership Award.” The University created this award “to recognize University of Health Services and Pharmacy alumni who by their actions have distinguished themselves through outstanding service to UHSP and exemplary leadership within the community, as well as impacting the profession of pharmacy. This award represents the highest honor bestowed by the University and is reserved for those who share and demonstrate UHSP’s values of discovery, diversity, inclusion, integrity, respect and service.” (Compassionate Presence)
In her comments of gratitude, Sister Mary Louise thanked President Allen “for establishing and naming the UHSP Leadership Award in my name. . . To those of you who desire to embark on developing your leadership, you and I know it cannot happen on our own. We cherish and give thanks to our family members and teachers for their loving care and support that set us on the path to leadership.”
Sister Mary Louise placed great value on maintaining connections and relationships. She even enjoyed meetings! When her ministry took her many miles from home, she kept in touch. She exuded “radical hospitality” as a friend of hers remarked. Even in her last weeks and days, she welcomed visitors, offering them a cool drink or a snack during the visit.
At her recent anointing, she joined in singing her favorite song, “To Do Your Will.” When she and a friend were speaking about St. Maria de Mattias, Mary Louise said with some excitement: “I’ll get to meet Maria!” She knew friends and relatives would also be ready and waiting to meet her.
Sister Mary Louise was preceded in death by her parents, her sister-in-law Norma, and her niece Judy Cameron.
She is survived by her brothers James, Paul (Mary Kay) and John R. (Theresa) Degenhart, niece Kristina (Robert) Garrison, nephews Philip, Jeremy (Sarah), Darin Degenhart, great nieces and nephews, and members of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ.
On Tuesday, April 4, Visitation will be in the Chapel at Benedictine Living Community at 1:30 p.m. with a Prayer Service at 2:00 p.m. in the Chapel. Sharing of memories with refreshments will be from 2:30-3:30 p.m. in the Dining Room.
On Wednesday, April 5, Visitation will be at St. Clare Church in O’Fallon, Illinois, from 9:00-11:00 a.m., followed by the Mass of Christian Burial at St. Clare. Luncheon will be in the Parish Center.
At 2:00 p.m. the Funeral Procession will drive to the convent cemetery in Ruma, Illinois, where she will be buried.