Sr. Gretchen Dysart, MSC, baptized Gail Mary Dysart, was born September 19, 1947 during a hurricane in New Orleans, Louisiana. After several years with cancer, she passed away peacefully September 6, 2021 at Chateau de Notre Dame Nursing Home, where she resided after Hurricane Ida. Her Marianite sister and caregiver, Sr. Sue Pablovich, MSC, was with her at the time of her death.
Sr. Gretchen was preceded in death by her parents, Bertha E. Jachens Dysart and Earl G. Dysart, her siblings Joycelin Dysart, Alice Dysart Wolthers, Earl Dysart, Jr. and by her niece, Gretchen Will and her nephew Gary Pelligrini. She is survived by her loving sisters, Marion Dysart LeBlanc and Shirley Dysart Pellegrini and by her nieces and nephews Sherri Pelligrini Saizan (Sonny), Terry Pelligrini (Keri), grandnephews Harold Kessling, III, Justin Pelligrini (Racheal), Brett Pelligrini and Shane Saizan and great-grandnieces Amberlyn and Halle Kessling.
After graduating from the Academy of Holy Angels, in 1965, she entered the Marianites of Holy Cross. A woman of many talents, Sr. Gretchen began her ministry as a high school teacher at St. John High School in Plaquemine, Louisiana in 1970. After pronouncing her perpetual vows on July 30, 1977 she obtained a Masters Degree in Communications from Notre Dame University. She then served as Producer at the Office of TV and Radio for the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana for five years. For the next twelve years she worked with Martin Doblmeier serving as Vice President/Producer for Journey Communications/Journey Films, an award-winning production company in Alexandria, Virginia (Gabriel Awards, etc.).
In 1995 she was elected a General Administration Councilor of the Marianites. She then ministered as First Assistant, Marianite Leadership Team (2001-2007). One of her greatest joys was working with Holy Cross International Sessions and meeting so many members of the Family of Holy Cross. From February through May of 2008, Sr. Gretchen took part in a sabbatical at White Violet Center for Eco-Justice in Terre Haute, Indiana. She was awarded a Master’s Certificate in Earth Literacy from St. Mary of the Woods College, Terre Haute, Indiana in 2011.
She brought her wisdom, tender heart and wit to the Marianites residing at Our Lady of Wisdom Nursing Home in New Orleans where she served as Liaison to the Marianite Leadership from 2008 - 2019. During these years she also served on the Boards of Holy Cross High School, University of Holy Cross Board of Regents, Holy Cross International Justice Office and Our Lady of Wisdom Nursing Home. In 2015, she was awarded Trustee of the Year by Leading Age Gulf States for her “commitment and dedicated service to quality programs and services for the elderly.”
She was greatly influenced by the need for care of the earth and became a passionate “save the earth” crusader as she strongly endorsed Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ encyclical on the care of our common home. Ninth Ward cats, caterpillars and camellias, all enjoyed her loving care while she also participated in the endeavors of the Bywater Neighborhood Association and by bringing the services of Parkway Partners to the area.
During these years she embarked on an environmental ministry through lectures to various groups, working on special projects and gardening as a spiritual practice. As her cancer progressed, Sr. Gretchen remained gracious and grace-filled, even in dependency and weakness. Her love for gardening was used as therapy during her cancer treatments. While residing at the Archdiocesan Retreat Center, she could be seen tending the outdoor gardens and nurturing the African violets in the dining room. She accepted the inexplicable will of God. “The Cross, our holy hope” was her mantra.
Sr. Gretchen was always grateful to the healthcare providers and personnel at Tulane Hospitals and Clinics, Tulane Cancer Center, Notre Dame Health System: Home Health, Hospice and Chateau de Notre Dame Nursing Facility … all of whom provided compassionate, Christ-like care over the past several years, especially during the COVID pandemic and post-hurricane Ida days. A special thanks to the Archdiocesan Retreat Center staff and volunteers who provided a supportive, loving community as her health declined.
Sr. Gretchen asks that we all become more involved in environmental activities to save the precious planet that God gave us.
Gretchen, we are thankful for being a Marianite and for “your one wild and precious life”. (Mary Oliver, poet)
To celebrate Sr. Gretchen’s life, services will be held at Schoen’s Funeral Home Chapel, 3827 Canal Street on Monday, September 20, 2021. Visitation will be from 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM with the Mass of Christian Burial at 11:00 AM. Following the liturgy, a private burial service will take place at the Marianite Mausoleum in New Orleans.
In lieu of flowers, the Marianites of Holy Cross request that memorial donations be made to the Marianites of Holy Cross Congregational Center at 21388 Smith Road, Covington, Louisiana, 70435. Arrangements by Jacob Schoen & Son Funeral Home 3827 Canal St. New Orleans, LA 70119. To view a live-stream of the Mass follow the link in the obituary at www.schoenfh.com where you can also leave condolences.
Click here to view a webcast of the service on 9/20/2021 at 10:50 AM, Central Standard Time.