Sister Marilyn Wegener was a lifelong learner who shared her love for learning in 38 years of teaching in elementary schools. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education, art and history from Alverno College in Milwaukee. In the years to follow, she attended countless workshops and classes in education, spirituality and personal growth and development. In her 38-year ministry, Sr. Marilyn taught at St. Paul, Bloomer; Mother of Good Counsel, Milwaukee; Holy Name, Wausau; St. Joseph, East Bristol; St. Therese, Schofield; and St. Pius X, Wauwatosa, all in Wisconsin. In 1969 she moved to Tucson, Ariz. to care for her father who struggled with advanced arthritis. During that time she also taught at John de Nepomoc School.
Sr. Marilyn was given the name Leona when she was born on September 17, 1928 to Henry and Rose (Rosing) Wegener in Ingleside, Ill. She was one of seven children and grew up on a dairy farm in northern Illinois. At a young age Leona enjoyed helping with farm chores because she loved being outdoors. Her love for the outdoors stayed with her even into retirement, when she would plant flowers or pull weeds while using her walker.
Young Leona attended St. Peter School in Volo, Ill. and was taught by our Salvatorian Sisters. She attended Grant Community High School in Fox Lake, Ill. and entered our Community on October 11, 1946. Just 18, Leona was already familiar with the Sisters of the Divine Savior because three of her maternal aunts were members: Sisters Ignatius, Rosemarie and Marguerite Rosing. Years later, Sr. Marilyn mused, “I guess I got prayed into the community through them.” She entered the novitiate on August 12, 1947 and received the name Sister Marilyn. She pronounced her first vows on August 13, 1948 and final vows on August 13, 1954 in Milwaukee.
During her teaching years, Sr. Marilyn often spent summers working at Salvatorian Heights, an assisted living facility for elder Salvatorian Sisters. She returned to Salvatorian Heights full time after retiring from teaching. Her ministry there, along with caring for her father might have inspired and prepared her to serve as a home health aide to older adults. She took them shopping, drove them to medical appointments and helped with housekeeping and other tasks. Sr. Marilyn felt patience was the single most important quality for her home care ministry, and said, “I have tried to be compassionate, caring and patient.” During those years, she also tutored at the Milwaukee Achiever Program. Looking back on Sr. Marilyn’s life, she was always reaching out to help someone in need.
Sr. Marilyn moved to Salvatorian Sisters Residence (SSR) in March 2009 to receive more assistance with her own needs. Still wanting to help others, Sr. Marilyn volunteered in the laundry at St. Anne’s Salvatorian Campus and often spent time visiting residents there. She also remained an active gardener, caring for house plants as well as the SSR courtyard garden just outside the dining room.
In 2016, Sr. Marilyn was transferred to St. Anne’s to receive round-the-clock care. In September 2019 she was placed on hospice care. Family members and Salvatorian Sisters gathered, prayed and sang at her bedside as funeral plans were made. Sr. Marilyn always had a keen sense of humor and it came through once again when her health rallied.
Early in December 2020, a pastoral care assistant at St. Anne’s was visiting in the room shared by Sisters Marilyn and Clara Cáceres. She was praying the rosary aloud with Sr. Clara. Sr. Marilyn was not praying along, but when Sr. Clara stopped, unable to remember the rest of the prayer, Sr. Marilyn finished the Hail Mary out loud from across the room! Sister Marilyn received compassionate care from the St. Anne’s staff until her death on January 5, 2021. She was 92 years old and professed for 72 years.
Sr. Marilyn was preceded in death by her parents Henry and Rose, and brothers Leo, who died at birth, and Leroy; sisters Rosemary and Agnes; brothers-in-law Alfred Heil and Walter Heil and sister-in-law Dorothy Wegener. She is survived by her brother Raymond and sister Rita Heil; many nieces and nephews, as well as the Salvatorian family. A private funeral service was held for Sr. Marilyn on Friday, January 15, 2021 and memorial gifts to the Sisters of the Divine Savior are appreciated.