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Bishop White Seminary’s long-time ‘cook and counselor’ dies at age 90

the Inland Register

(From the Dec. 7, 2006 edition of the Inland Register)

Mary Lindemann, “cook and counselor” for Bishop White Seminary, died Nov. 15 at the age of 90. (IR file photo)

Mary Lindemann, long-time “cook and counselor” for Bishop White Seminary, died Nov. 15 in Spokane. She was 90 years old.

The vigil was Nov. 21 at Hennessey-Smith Funeral Home in Spokane. The funeral Mass was celebrated Nov. 22 at St. Aloysius Church, Spokane. Entombment was at Holy Cross Cemetery.

She was born in LeFor, N.D. She married her husband, Frank, who preceded her in death, as did her daughter, Marjorie. She is survived by a son, Martin, of Spokane, and siblings Henry and John Sabo and Margaret Lowrey.

She retired from Bishop White after 27 years, in May 1985. She initially came to work at Mater Cleri Seminary, in Colbert, on a 30-day tryout, hired by Msgr. James Ribble, then rector. In an Inland Register story about her retirement, Msgr. Ribble said of her, “Her only instance of indecisiveness was her ‘temporary commitment’ to the seminary.”

She was proud of her involvement with the formation programs of the Spokane Diocese, and proud of the young men who passed through those programs. Some were ordained to the priesthood; many were not. She attended every ordination her health allowed her to attend. She dealt with each seminarian with a profound sense of charitable candor that left them absolutely sure of their place in her world.

“I’ve never regretted being here,” she said in 1985. “Even though I’d get mad as anything at those boys sometimes – and the priests, too. I’d tell them, ‘I know things about you that if you knew I knew, you wouldn’t be able to look me in the face. And I love you anyway…. Even though I resigned a couple of times, I wouldn’t trade the job for any other in the world.

“After my husband died,” she said, “this was my vocation. I was needed here, is why, I think…. God was telling me to stay here.”

There was a strong sense of shared responsibility for the Bishop White community. “I’d get to know the boys better than the rectors did,” she said.

She recalled telling one rector, “I’m not a piece of furniture and neither are these boys. Either be a human being or I quit. Or you can fire me…. Well, I stood there. And I thought for sure he was going to fire me. But he thought for a minute, and he said to me, ‘You know, you’re right.’”

According to the late Father Eugene Mulligan, “Without her, half the priests in the diocese wouldn’t be in the diocese.” Father Mulligan, himself a psychologist, laughingly referred to her as “unfair competition” in counseling and advising the seminarians.

Father Michael Savelesky, another former Bishop White rector, called her “one of those outstanding individuals whose charismatic love touches people and lasts a lifetime.

“Many a bishop, priest, seminarian and visitor enjoyed the plenty of the table she spread so delightfully. Especially blessed, however, were those who sat with her over coffee, cookies – and any other sweet delight from her kitchen – to glean her insight into human nature.

“As chief cook, bottle-washer and even, at times, house cleaner, Mary Lindemann consistently was strong in her witness to the generosity of Christ and his Church.”

“Even in the last years of her life, Mrs. Lindemann remained as a contributing member of the Bishop White community,” said Father Darrin Connall, present rector of Bishop White. “She lived right across the alley and was therefore able to attend daily Mass in the seminary chapel. She joined us for seminary celebrations, kept the seminary raspberry bushes trimmed and she served as an informal security guard, keeping watch on all who entered and departed the seminary property. Very little escaped her watchful eye.”

When she retired, she was awarded the Bishop’s Medal for her service to the diocese. It was only the sixth such award the diocese had made.

“I wouldn’t trade my years for anything,” she said. “I got so much out of it – so many friends. I can hardly count them all. So many of them still come and visit – there are so many good guys.”


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