Mary Reese was born December 8, 1922 in Wilmington, DE to Elizabeth (Conway) Reese and James M. Reese. She had three sisters: Betty, Catherine and Cecilia and three brothers: Rev. Charles, Rev. James and Rev. Msgr. Thomas. Mary graduated from Ursuline Academy High School, Wilmington in 1940. In 1943, Mary earned a Diploma in Nursing from St. Francis School of Nursing in Wilmington. Later she obtained an RN from the same school then served in the Army Nurse Corps during World War II.
Mary entered the Maryknoll Sisters on October 5, 1946 at the Sisters’ Center in NY. She pronounced First Vows April 6, 1949 at the Center and Final Vows April 6, 1952 also at the Center.
Mary’s first assignment was fulltime student from 1949 – ’53 earning a Bachelor of Science Nursing Education from Catholic University, Washington, DC in 1950. In 1952, she obtained a Certificate in Midwifery from the Catholic Institute, Santa Fe, NM. From 1950 – ’53, Mary gave Congregational Service in the Maryknoll Sisters’ Health Care Unit at the Center.
In 1953 Sister Mary was assigned to Kowak, Tanzania, where she worked in the local dispensary and the maternity unit. Later, she worked in Nassa and at the Government Hospital in Mwanza.
Returning to the States Mary earned a Master of Arts in Theology from the Maryknoll School of Theology, Maryknoll, NY in 1974.
Sister Mary then went to Kenya, where she served at Kinango Hospital near Mombasa as a staff nurse. She returned to Tanzania in 1975 where she was involved in a national maternity and health program for five years. In 1980 she was assigned to the Cathedral Parish in Musoma, where she worked in pastoral ministry and with women’s groups, until 1995.
In 1995 Sister Mary became involved with the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which was showing signs of devastation in Musoma. She started the Youth Alive Center to respond to the young people, orphans, and vulnerable children, as well as people living and dying with AIDS. This center, renamed the Community Alive Center in 2008, remains very active to this day, providing more than 300 children with education essential for their future, as well as support to men and women who find at the Center ways they can cope and learn to live with hope.
Sister Mary worked for many years with Maryknoll Sister Rosalie Lacorte in a project in Tanzania helping children of AIDS patients, many of whom were orphans.
After many loving farewells, Sister Mary returned to the U.S. in 2010, and became an active member of the Maryknoll Sisters Center Rogers Community.