Sister Mary Luke Tobin

Sister Mary Luke Tobin, a Loretto nun who was one of only three women involved in the drafting of Vatican II council documents, died in Nerinx, Kentucky, on 24 August, aged 98. An ardent ecumenist and advocate of church renewal, peace, social justice and women's rights in church and society, Sr Tobin was president of her order from 1958 to 1970 and was head of what is now the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) during Vatican II. Born in 1908 in Denver, Ruth Marie Tobin joined the Loretto community and took the religious name Mary Luke when she professed her vows in 1927. She had been a ballet student and dance teacher before entering religious life. She then became a teacher and principal of elementary and high schools staffed by her order in Missouri, Colorado and Illinois. Her leadership role in the Sisters of Loretto began in 1952, when she was elected to the community's general council. In 1964, Pope Paul VI invited her to attend Vatican II as an auditor after Belgian Cardinal Leo Jozef Suenens complained that half of humanity, women, had no representation at the council. Sr Mary was part of the commission that drafted Gaudium et Spes, the Council's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. Speaking to reporters after sitting in on her first Council meeting on 1 October 1964, she expressed hopes that Vatican II would lead to far greater inclusion of women in church leadership. "I hope some real progress will be made in acknowledging the great potential that remains to be tapped," she said. In the years that followed Vatican II she was one of the pioneers in renewal of religious life, which she said was chiefly about renewal of the interior life rather than changes in nuns' habits or constitutions. She wrote and spoke widely on women's rights and peace and social justice issues, risking arrest at nuclear weapons sites, picketing farmers, protesting the Vietnam and Gulf wars and advocating corporate justice measures at stockholders' meetings. She did much of her work in her native Denver but travelled the world on missions for peace, including visits to Saigon and Paris during the Vietnam War and later El Salvador and Northern Ireland during conflicts there. While living in Nerinx, Tobin became friends with Trappist monk Thomas Merton, who lived at the nearby Abbey of Gethsemani. They frequently visited and corresponded. After Merton's accidental death in 1968, Tobin became a lecturer on Merton's teachings and writings, was a co-founder of the International Thomas Merton Society and established the Thomas Merton Center for Creative Exchange in Denver in 1979. Sources: LH/ICN

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