Dancing into the arms of God
Sister Mary Aelred Oakley is at home with God, now able to dance freely and to her heart’s content as her beloved Irish music fills heaven. She was born into eternal life at 9:30 p.m. on October 16 at the age of 91. She took her last breath among her Sisters and caregivers at her home, the Monastery of St. Gertrude.
The daughter of William and Elizabeth Oakley, she entered this life on April 10, 1920 and was named Elizabeth Grace. The oldest of three children, she grew up in an Irish neighborhood in London, England where she attended St. Joseph’s school and excelled in religion classes. She also began attending the Church of the Most Precious Blood with a friend. In 1932 she received First Communion and was confirmed in the Catholic faith.
In 1949 she moved to Canada to be with her sister who had married a Canadian during World War II. She was introduced to the Monastery by her local priest and eventually entered in 1965 at the age of 45. A few years later she completed her AA degree at the College of St. Gertrude. She made her First Monastic Profession on August 7, 1967 and made her Perpetual Monastic Profession on August 6, 1971. She celebrated her Silver Jubilee in 1992.
Sister Aelred’s broad range of ministries included work as secretary, librarian, caregiver and domestic. She provided administrative support for St. Gertrude’s College and Academy, Mother Regina O’Connell, and the parishes of Sacred Heart in Boise and Saints Peter and Paul in Grangeville. Later she served as a home helper and babysitter. At the Monastery, she helped with clerical work, cleaning, and food preparation and preservation.
In 1979 she obtained certificates in basic and advanced alcohol studies from Seattle University and began ministering to people battling alcohol dependency. As the daughter of an alcoholic father, she was able to share her own journey of transformation for the healing of others.
Sister Aelred enjoyed reading, art, visiting, knitting and especially dancing. She danced for the residents at Grangeville’s Senior Center and Clarkston Seniors’ annual talent show. She also attended Irish dances and the Scottish Highland Games. She treasured time with family and trips she took with them to places such as Alaska, England, California and Hawaii. Among many other things, she will be remembered for her dry wit and inimitable English accent.
She is preceded in death by her parents and by her brother William and sister Irene and survived by her niece Dianne, nephews David and Lindsay Reichmann, great nephews, several cousins and the Benedictine Sisters at St. Gertrude’s.
The Vigil Service is Wednesday, October 19 at 7 p.m. and the Mass of the Resurrection is Thursday, October 20th at 1:30 p.m. All are welcome.
Memorial Gifts in Sister Aelred’s honor can be made to the Monastery.