Stella Maris' Sister Miriam Marzak

January 06, 1995|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Sun Staff Writer

Sister Miriam Marzak, R.S.M., who worked comforting the dying at Stella Maris Hospice after she retired as a music teacher, died at the hospice Tuesday after a long illness. She was 89.

After teaching music for more than 30 years at Mount St. Agnes High School, Mount St. Agnes College and Mercy High School, she retired in 1971.

She began working at Stella Maris in 1972, teaching elderly residents crocheting, knitting, weaving and music.

As part of her work with the terminally ill, Sister Miriam organized the Shalom Team, a group that sits and prays with those approaching death.

"Her mission was to see that people had someone with them and that they wouldn't die alone," said Tom Brown, director of public relations at the hospice.

"She stayed with them, trying to ease and comfort them. She'd sit by their beds for hours and hours -- time was unimportant to her," he said.

According to Mr. Brown, Sister Miriam's pioneering work with dying patients and their families has become a standard counseling feature at the hospice.

"She always said that she had had three careers in her life and [that] her third career working with the dying was the most joyful," said Sister Louis Mary Battle, administrator of Stella Maris.

"She was revitalized by the experience and was challenged by those who were hard to reach," Sister Louis Mary said.

"She was an early friend of those afflicted with AIDS, who were much too young to die," she said. "In her work, she was not intrusive but sought to reassure those who were dying."

Assigned to the hospice's North Wing where the average age of patients was 85, Sister Miriam learned firsthand the anxieties

that those approaching death experience. She recognized that they were fearful of dying and that they passed through stages of anger, denial and depression before accepting the inevitable.

"They tell me, 'I'm afraid,' " she said in a 1977 interview in The Sun. "Of course, you are. There's always something in life to be afraid of. I'm afraid of going to my dentist."

She philosophized that suffering brought freedom and that for those dying the freedom of letting go was the ultimate self-gift.

Sister Miriam was known by her hearty laugh and for her lifelong interest in boxing.

"No one ever learned where this interest of hers in boxing came from. She always described it as being graceful. The rest of us liked football so we used to have to share the TV," Sister Louis Mary said with a laugh.

Born and reared on Poppleton Street, Sister Miriam entered the Religious Sisters of Mercy in 1927. She earned her bachelor's degree in music from Catholic University of America and did postgraduate work at the Peabody Conservatory of Music.

A Mass of Christian burial was to be offered at 10 a.m. today in the Stella Maris chapel, 2300 Dulaney Valley Road, Towson.

She is survived by several cousins.

Memorial donations may be made to the Stella Maris Hospice Care Program or to the Sisters of Mercy Retirement Fund.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.