Remembrance of the Life of Sister Marietta Goy SL
Author’s Note: This remembrance of Sister Marietta Goy draws heavily on the report of an interview of Marietta done in 2008 by Kathleen O’Malley. Additional material is from Marietta’s personnel file.
When Marietta Goy came into the world she was baptized Geraldine. She grew up in the farming community of Sublette, Ill., as the oldest of four children — one sister, Charlotte, and two brothers, Jim and Glen. Her grandfather gave each of his sons money for a down payment on farm land. Leo, Geraldine’s father, spent his life working his land in north central Illinois, while Geraldine’s mother, Helen, worked hard as the wife of a farmer and the mother of four. The hardships of the Depression were the same for all the farm families in the area.
Leo Goy’s farm lay on the road between Sublette and Maytown, where the family attended St. Patrick’s parish church, a community center for the farm families in the area. In the Goy family, Leo and Helen instilled the value and virtue of thoughtfulness in their children. Geraldine’s maternal grandmother lived on a nearby farm where Geraldine and her siblings would walk after school and have tea and cookies while their grandmother listened with interest to the day’s events.
Little Geraldine attended a one-room schoolhouse in Maytown, and remembers it as a very happy time where she learned a lot, but in a different order than in a school with individual classrooms. Because the older children helped the younger ones learn, she came to appreciate the differences and limitations in people. Years later, she said that she often wished she could teach in a one-room schoolhouse. The regional high school was in Amboy, 10 miles away. Going there was a big change, but Geraldine liked making new friends. In high school she liked math and science and thought she might want to become a nurse.
Sometimes at lunch Geraldine would go into a nearby church, which had stations of the Seven Dolors of Mary. She was attracted to this devotion and began praying these stations. Geraldine’s friend, Regina Burke (now Sister Jean Johnson), also from Maytown, was in her high school class and talked about becoming a nun. In her senior year, St. Patrick’s got a new pastor who had come from Sterling, Ill., 40 miles away. He spoke highly of the Sisters of Loretto in Sterling, and when Geraldine and Regina went to talk with him about becoming nuns, he suggested they go with him to Sterling and meet some of the Loretto Sisters. Geraldine was particularly impressed by Sisters V.A. Driscoll and Rosalie Elliott who had recently made first vows.
Geraldine and Regina entered the Sisters of Loretto together on Oct. 25, 1944 and were received on April 25, 1945. Geraldine Goy became Sister Marietta.
Following first vows two years later, Sister Marietta was assigned to teach kindergarten at St. Cronan’s in St. Louis. Two years later, she moved to first grade teaching, at Immaculate Conception in Maplewood, a suburb of St. Louis, then at Immaculate Conception in New Madrid, Mo. The year 1952 saw Marietta moving west to Holy Family Denver and second grade. Over the next 17 years, Marietta went back and forth between Denver and her home state of Illinois: St. Andrew’s in Rock Falls, St. Vincent’s in Denver, St. Andrew’s, Rock Falls, as principal and superior.
With the completion of her term as superior and the opportunity to choose her own work, Marietta chose to join Sister Mary Lawrence Ewing in New Orleans.
Mary Lawrence, known as Myrt, was principal at St. Vincent’s in Denver when Marietta taught seventh grade there. Myrt returned to her native Mobile to care for her mother, and one summer while Marietta, Myrt, Marian Gibbs and Jeanne Cushing were studying at Loyola University in New Orleans, Myrt decided to remain and teach in New Orleans to be closer to her mother. In 1969, Marietta joined Myrt and took a job teaching language arts at J.B. Martin Junior High, later transferring to St. Rose Middle School in nearby St. Rose. Myrt and Marietta collaborated on the design of individualized learning units for their students. And they joked that their friends believed them to be teaching in Catholic schools where in reality the public schools of Louisiana take their names from the civic areas called “parish.”
In 1982, Marietta was diagnosed with a rare cancer and underwent two serious surgeries and a lengthy recuperation. Continuing to live with Myrt in St. Rose, La., Marietta sought volunteer jobs, including reading for the blind on New Orleans radio station WRBH. Myrt’s health led the two friends to move in 1987 to Littleton, Colo., about 20 minutes south of the Loretto Center. There until Myrt’s sudden death in 1996, they offered friendship and fine dining to Loretto Community members and others in their comfortable condo. Soon Marietta moved again, to the Denver Center, where she volunteered as a driver for residents, worked at the desk at Catholic Charities Southwest Emergency Center and shared her precious cat Precious with everyone.
Marietta made her last move, to Loretto Motherhouse, in 2012, gracing the second floor of the convent until a fall and broken hip required new quarters in the Infirmary in 2015. For as long as she could, Marietta continued to join the Community at meals in the dining room. Because of the Covid quarantine, Marietta’s last big celebration, her 75th Jubilee this past spring, was observed in the Infirmary and on the Motherhouse closed-circuit TV program, “News from the Hill.”
Marietta’s pastor at St. Patrick’s, who introduced her to the Sisters of Loretto, said of her in his letter of recommendation: “Marietta is a fine girl. A splendid character. Nice personality and good on the inside, which to my mind is what really counts.”