BRIDAL VEIL, OREGON (07-02-2011) - Mother Mary Michael Costello, 94, entered the joy of eternal life at 1:00 A.M., July 2, 2011, after suffering an unexpected cerebral bleed on June 23rd at the Bridal Veil center. At the time of this incident, Mother Mary Michael was in a meeting with a priest and two lay men who, upon noticing that her speech became slurred, notified the Sisters in the house. While they awaited the arrival of an ambulance, the priest anointed Mother Mary Michael. Mother never regained full consciousness. She died "with her boots on," actively engaged in mission which characterized her life. Mother Mary Michael always had a deep reverence for priests throughout her life and many priests looked to her as a friend and confidante, as one who respected the sacredness of the Call to priesthood and who supported these chosen men through the challenges and joys of their vocation. In God's loving providence, it was fitting that Mother Mary Michael's last hour of active ministry was in the presence of a priest friend.
Mother Mary Michael was the co-foundress of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist's Bridal Veil Center in Oregon. With Mother Francine Cardew, she also co-founded the Franciscan Montessori Earth School in Portland in 1977. Mother Mary Michael was a woman of action who kept the needs of individuals as well as the universal Church at the forefront of her prayer and work. She was known in the Community for her hearty laugh, her practical, common sense approach to problems, her optimistic spirit and her gift of storytelling. She was proud of her Western upbringing and her Irish heritage. She was born in Spokane, Washington, on August 7, 1916, the daughter of Francis Bartholomew Costello and Catherine McDermott Costello, and was named Mary Caroline. She was the oldest girl in a family of seven children. She is predeceased by her parents, her brothers Father Bill Costello, S.J. and Joseph Costello, and her sisters Catherine Costello and Helen Petrich. The Franciscan Sisters and Brothers of the Eucharist join her brother, Father Frank Costello, S.J. of Spokane, and her sister, Therese Hauer, of Alameda, California, and her many nieces and nephews in mourning her death.
Sister Mary Michael's love of youth was expressed in her teaching career of many years. She entered the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, La Crosse, Wisconsin, in 1934 and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Viterbo College (now Viterbo University) in 1944 and a Master of Arts in English from Marquette University in 1952. She served as an educator and/or principal in schools in Sparta, Menomonie, Fountain City, and La Crosse, Wisconsin; in Carroll, Iowa; in Bozeman, Montana; and in Provo, Utah from 1936-1966. She especially delighted in teaching drama and debate. Her free spirit and love of fun endeared her to her high school students, especially the more rambunctious teenage boys who found in her someone who believed in their potential and encouraged them to live up to the greatness within them. At age 94, she continued to hear from students she had taught in high school, many of whom faithfully supported her latest fundraising efforts on behalf of the Franciscan Montessori Earth School.
In 1966, Sister Mary Michael was chosen Provincial of the newly formed Western Province of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, and established the Provincial House in Spokane. She served in this capacity until 1970. She was the Superior of the Franciscan Sisters' houses in Vancouver, B.C., Twassen Beach, B.C., Portland, and Bridal Veil, Oregon. In 1973, she became a founding member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist and served on the General Council for 12 years. In Oregon, Sister served as a pastoral minister and parish visitor at St. Ignatius Parish, Portland, and St. Henry Parish, Gresham.
As Superior of the Bridal Veil center, Mother Mary Michael coordinated the restoration of the house and land and developed the Franciscan Villa program with Sister Margaret Boehm. Up to the present time, she continued to relate to the volunteers who faithfully come to the center to care for the land and gardens.
Mother Mary Michael was indeed a foundation stone in the building of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist Community. She leaves a legacy for the Church of a life given generously to others in friendship, prayer and Franciscan joy. She witnessed to a life of chastity, poverty and obedience for 74 years, having made first vows in 1937 and perpetual vows in 1943. For decades, the Costello family has called their family reunion a "Come-All-Ye". As a Franciscan woman of the Church, Mother Mary Michael carried that spirit of welcome and hospitality from her familial heritage to the universal Church as she embraced the sorrows and joys of others and lightened their burdens with her spirit of hope and faith.
Sister Patricia Glass, FSE, Funeral Director, and Holman's Funeral Service, Portland, are in charge of arrangements. A wake will be held at the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist home in Bridal Veil the evening of July 27th. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. Henry Church, Gresham, on July 28th. Burial will be in the Franciscan cemetery in Bridal Veil.