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Remembering Sr. Mary Dingman, SSSF

The privilege and gift of a lifetime   ~ Fr. Dan Krettek

Of the many things I could say about Sister Mary Dingman, I will share one anecdote that captures the wisdom and gift she shared with me and so many through her ministry at Emmaus. I came to Mary for my own retreats and spiritual direction for seventeen years before joining her as a co-director, so she knew me very well.


One of the things she heard me talk about time and again was my love of hunting, fishing, and being out in the woods in the fall of the year. I joined her at Emmaus in September of 1997, and when the hunting season opened later that fall I questioned whether I should take time off to go afield, so soon after just getting started here.

When I asked Mary about this she replied simply, but emphatically, “Oh! You have to!” Through our contact over the years, she knew I had to because she knew and understood how integral and important a part of me my annual time in the woods is. So, despite any personal or Franciscan feelings about what I would be doing there, she affirmed and even insisted that I be true to myself and take the time away, new hire or not! I know I am by no means the only one whom Mary affirmed in this way, ministering the Ignatian charism of helping people come to a deeper knowledge and acceptance of themselves. As Joseph Campbell said: The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are. Thank you, Mary, for helping me and so many know and be who we are!      

I only met Mary once and the freedom of flying   ~ Cindy Shaw

Shortly after I was hired as co-director of Emmaus, Fr. Dan Krettek and I traveled to St. Paul, Iowa so that I could meet and visit with Sr. Mary. As we drove into Mary’s driveway that cool October day, both Mary and her sister Louise welcomed us into their home and ushered us to the dining room table where I instantly felt at home and was privileged to “sit at the feet” of Mary’s wisdom over generous slices of freshly baked pecan pie.

During this delightful afternoon, Mary shared many Emmaus stories with me, stories that spoke to me not only of her dedication and commitment to the ministry, but also to the love and joy that the ministry had offered to her (and, in my opinion, she allowed to flow back into the community!). I had hoped to “pick Mary’s ministerial brain”, to ask her advice, and instead I received something else.  

That day Mary bestowed on me an understanding of the gift of a ministerial heart. She cautioned me to “not be concerned with knowing exactly what to do in this ministry; there are no mistakes, only learning and growing opportunities.” Mary reminded me that I was invited to this place at this time in my life and that I did not have to figure out everything before its time. She allowed me comfort in something that I continue to draw on these five years later, the comfort of knowing that it is perfectly fine and “holy acceptable” to fly by the seat of my pants, because I would never be flying alone. Thank you Mary for the gift of you being you to all of us.  

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