Sister Mary Frances Serafino, SSMN, educator and mentor, dies at 90
FORT WORTH — Sr. Mary Frances Serafino, SSMN, spent her entire teaching career in Catholic school classrooms but only attended a Catholic school once. It was a year that changed her life forever.
After graduating from a public high school, the Duncanville resident enrolled in Our Lady of Victory College, operated by the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur. When members of the congregation came together in 1948 for a weekend retreat, the 18-year-old freshman was one of the undergraduates who joined them.
“In those three days of silence, praying with the sisters, I could feel the energy of it,” recalled the veteran educator in a 2019 interview with the North Texas Catholic. “I felt filled with a sense of God from the top of my head to the bottom of my toes. It was powerful and it stayed with me.”
She joined the religious order a year later in 1949.
Sister Mary Frances spent 71 years sharing her love of God and joy in leading others to Him as a Sister of St. Mary, before her death September 9 at the age of 90. Surrounded by family and friends, the always stylish sister, who considered becoming a fashion designer or interior decorator before entering the convent, celebrated her 70th jubilee as an SSMN last September during a Mass in Holy Family Church in Fort Worth.
To comply with COVID restrictions, a private funeral is set for Sept. 18. A memorial Mass, with Sister Mary Frances’ large circle of friends, is planned sometime in the future.
“She was so kind to everyone and welcomed everyone she came in contact with,” said Rosemary Hayes, a longtime friend and member of the SSMN auxiliary. “She was a precious person who will be missed.”
During her time as an elementary school teacher, principal, and choir director, Sr. Mary Fran, as she was called by her friends, worked at St. Alice (now Holy Family) School, Our Lady of Victory School in Fort Worth, and Resurrection School in Houston. Years later, she taught religion and English at Nolan Catholic High School and Notre Dame High School in Wichita Falls.
As director of faith formation and religious education, she served St. Rita Parish in Fort Worth, St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Arlington, and rural parishes in Bridgeport and Decatur.
While living in Virginia, Sr. Mary Fran founded and directed the Dolphin Tales Spiritual Resource Center and Bookstore, worked as a pastoral associate at Church of the Resurrection, and was an adjunct professor of religious studies at St. Leo University.
Returning to Fort Worth, the skilled volunteer mentored inmates at the Federal Women’s Prison, helped Catholic Charities with ESL classes, and was an active member of the Daughters of Abraham — an interfaith group of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish women.
Days before her death, she participated in a two-hour retreat with friends from the organization, via the internet, to pray for harmony in today’s divided world.
From 1989 until recently, Sr. Mary Fran guided people through the peaks and valleys of life as a spiritual director at the OLV convent.
“I listen to their story to help them listen to their story,” she told the NTC. “There’s something stirring in them. The women are seeking God and find Him at a deeper and deeper level.”
In 2007, Sr. Mary Fran served as a delegate to SSMN’s general chapter and met fellow Sisters of St. Mary from different parts of the world.
“It enriched her sense of being a Sister of St. Mary and the universal/international congregation that we are,” said Sister Rosemary Stanton, SSMN. “She formed a close relationship with some of the sisters from those countries and kept in contact with them through email and phone calls. She had a very open spirit.”
Sr. Mary Fran is survived by her sister, Sister Charles Marie Serafino, SSMN, nieces, and members of her congregation.