Remembrance of the Life of Sister Mary Jean Tenhaeff SL
Sister Mary Jean was born in Denver Colorado, the daughter of Joseph and Perenella McDonald Tenhaeff, both Colorado natives. As Gladys Margaret Tenhaeff, she was taught by the Sisters of Loretto at St. Vincent de Paul School and Cathedral High School in Denver, from which she graduated in1942. She worked for five years as a unit operator for Mountain States Tel & Tel before joining Loretto in 1947. As Sister Mary Jean, she made her first vows December 8, 1949 and her final vows August 15, 1953.
Mary Jean devoted twenty years to grade and high school teaching in Illinois and Denver, Colorado. While teaching she earned a bachelor’s degree in English and then a master’s degree in history. In 1970-71, Mary Jean began a second twenty-year career as Administrator for nursing homes in Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs and Loretto Center in Denver. She also served on the health care staff for the Loretto Community. In the 1990s, Mary Jean began a third phase of service as a health care and tutoring volunteer in Colorado Springs and later Director of the Rhodes Tutoring Center in Denver.
Near the time of her golden Jubilee Mary Jean wrote the following summary of her life:
“As I reflect on my near 50 years of being a Sister of Loretto, my life seems like a mosaic of person, places and events flooded in a warm light. That warmth comes from the realization that God has always loved me and that every change or even was a “growing time.”
The most traumatic change in my “being” began with a decision… to assume responsibility for what was happening in my life and around me, and to confront injustice wherever I found it. This changed my approach to teaching and eventually led to my active role in the civil rights movement: forming a teachers’ association in the Colorado parochial school and negotiating teacher contracts with the Archdiocese.
In history studies at the University of Notre Dame, I’d heard about winning the battle and losing the war. Now I learned these as a lesson in life, my life. I decided to leave the school system and look for a career in the health care field where my students and I had done volunteer work.
Thus began another quarter century of change and challenge in which I assumed a leadership and advocate role in behalf of aged and/or impaired individuals. In the 1990s I maintained that role as a volunteer.
The latest and greatest development in my “being” is a result of a community-sponsored year at Emmaus House in Elberon, NJ. That year brought a depth of spiritual healing and wholeness that mysteriously unfolds a bit more each day. I am profoundly grateful for the enabling love of Loretto and Emmaus as I continue my journey along THE WAY.”
In 2001 Mary Jean retired at Loretto Center, Denver. In 2004 she came to Loretto Motherhouse Infirmary, where she died peacefully early Saturday morning, February 9th, 2013.