“We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he meant it to be lived.”

~ Ephesians 2:10

This succinctly describes Sister Ignatia Parisey’s life a work of art; the good life lived to the fullest. The God of all creation granted Sister ninety-six fruitful years of life and seventy-five blessed years with the Marywood Dominican Community. Her quiet concern and loving care of all whose lives she touched, her hidden acts of charity and her complete acceptance of God’s Will in all aspects of her life were marks which left no doubt in anyone’s mind that this woman was a leaven of Christian living and Dominican spirituality. Her sense of awareness and her dedication kept Sister Ignatia fully alive to the end. Not much, if anything ever escaped her inquiring mind.

Mary Ruth, the eldest of three children, was born to Mose and Virginia Hazen Parisey on March 22, 1902. She received the Sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation at St. Joseph Church in Marinette, Wisconsin and with her brothers, Lawrence and Leonard attended the parish elementary school. After one year of high school, Marie, as her French-speaking parents affectionately called her, attended the local Twin City Business College and then held a clerical position before entering the Marywood Community. At an early age, Marie had given some thought to becoming a Sister but did not give it serious consideration until later after working for three years. It was a struggle to choose between the Community, which staffed her home parish school and the Dominican Sisters who taught in nearby Peshtigo. Once the choice was made, Marie was on her way to Grand Rapids within the week. She was formally received into the Community on September 8, 1922. She received St. Dominic’s white habit on March 7, 1923 and the name Sister Mary Ignatia of the Holy Name of Jesus. Two years later on August 18, 1925, she made her first profession of vows and her final vows on August 18, 1931. At the time of her Diamond Jubilee in 1983 she wrote: “I sincerely thank God for my Dominican vocation and the opportunity to live a full spiritual life, to serve in many capacities and acquire a wide circle of friends, especially my religious Sisters.”

Her energetic eagerness and ready participation dispelled the doubts caused by her physical frailty and this trust was not misplaced for her services covered the gamut. The earlier years of her ministry were in elementary education. Her first teaching assignment was at St. Joseph School, Bay City, where she also taught high school classes in French. Then followed assignments to St. Joseph, Mt. Carmel and Ss. Peter and Paul in Saginaw, St. Alphonsus and Marywood Academy in Grand Rapids, Our Lady of Fatima in Albuquerque and St. Francis in Ranchos de Taos. While at Marywood Academy, she also served as Mistress of the Aspirants. Her genuine concern for people and her administrative ability were soon recognized. This seemingly frail woman was entrusted with assignments that often included the multiple responsibilities of full-time teacher, principal and superior of the convent. But, as one Sister explains: “She was able to care for the needs of the students, the teachers and the Sisters, though how she stretched herself to meet all these needs remained a mystery.” True to the Dominican charism of study, she earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree from Aquinas College and furthered her education by graduate studies at Stritch College, the Universities of Marquette, Detroit and Indiana.

Sister Ignatia called herself a quiet person, but she had the dynamic energy to keep going, to learn new ways and to introduce new ideas that would improve the local education system. She exemplified and proved that kindness, understanding and caring brought discipline and loyalty. When the first girls’ dormitory opened on campus at Aquinas College, Sister Ignatia was selected to serve as guide and counselor to the young residents as well as to oversee the smooth and efficient operation of the building: The Aquinas students treasured her wisdom and understanding. As a member of the Congregation’s Pre-retirement and Retirement Team for several years, Sister was an invaluable link in assisting her peers to move gracefully and with self-esteem into their retirement years.

At the age of seventy-five, still living the good life to the fullest, Sister Ignatia seized the opportunity to move into another ministry, Senior Citizen High Rise ministry. Using her apartment as her office, she was able to look after the lonely, shop for those who were ill or blind, and bring the Eucharist to those Catholics who lived in the building but were unable to attend services in nearby parishes. As younger members of the Community moved into new opportunities of service, Sister could be heard to say: “If I were fifty years younger, I would apply for just such a position.”

The success of the multiple ministries of Sister Ignatia was a reflection of her personal interest and gentleness, the depth of caring for those with whom and for whom she served. She had the ability to get along with all types of people, always seeing the good in everyone. Nor was age a barrier for her. She was equally at home with the youngest and the oldest. No wonder her circle of friends embraced every group in every area where she had ministered.

Lest we think that all of Sister Ignatia’s life was the “good life,” we are reminded that she had periods of illness and underwent several major surgeries. She did not let these setbacks lessen her zeal. She usually selected periods of vacation for the surgery, giving the impression of never being off duty. Nevertheless, one of the more difficult things for Sister Ignatia to accept in her later years was the slow, physical deterioration of her peers as well as her own limitations. She was reluctant to admit to these limitations and even more reluctant eventually to retire. In fact, she moved in and out of retirement several times. She retired from the High Rise ministry to return to Marywood, but soon found herself a full-time position in pastoral care at Aquinata Hall. She retired from that work but immediately found something equally important with which to use her time and energy.

Sister Ignatia had three loves: God, her family and her Dominican Congregation. Often she spoke of the many blessings of God’s great goodness to her throughout her long life. She shared cherished memories of her deceased parents and two brothers. Her sister-in-law, niece and nephew were dearly loved. Faithfulness, loyalty and genuine pride characterized her life in the Marywood Community.
Indeed Sister Ignatia was and is God’s work of art; created to live the good life as from the beginning it was meant to be lived. The work of art is complete. Each year and each new ministry and each person whose life was touched and shaped by her has contributed to that work of art. She taught us by her life and her example how to live the good life and in so doing allowed all of us who were willing to live it with her.

Sister is survived by her nephew, Larry K. Parisey of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and a host of friends.