When Sr. Mary Mollison, CSA, found her way to Marian University in Fond du Lac, Wisc., in 1966, she never expected to enter religious life. She wanted to be a nurse, and Marian University offered a four-year nursing program. But by the time she graduated, she also knew she was called to enter the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes. In 1969, she received her bachelor’s degree in nursing and made her first vows.
Sr. Mary loved nursing. She was happily working in a hospital in Hayes, Kan., when she was called back to Fond du Lac in 1982 to serve as the first leader of sponsorship for CSA. She was elected to congregational leadership in 1985, serving as vicar until 1993 and then as general superior until 2001.
She had significant influence in shaping and strengthening Catholic health care in Fond du Lac. In the mid-1980s, she was instrumental in bringing two independent physician groups together, giving birth to the Fond du Lac Regional Clinic. In 1993, she helped create the partnership between FDLRC and St. Agnes Hospital, which was the beginning of an integrated health network in the area.
In 1997, Sr. Mary convened a task force of board, executive, and physician leaders from each of the CSA-sponsored ministries in the Fond du Lac area. She led them in a process that ultimately led to the founding of Agnesian HealthCare.
A trailblazer in sponsorship, Sr. Mary championed laypersons serving as sponsors long before many congregations began considering this possibility. She has guided many religious congregations in discerning the future of their ministries. Her groundbreaking work in ministerial PJPs instilled the courage in several other congregations to move forward with this new form of sponsorship.
She has been actively engaged in the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, serving on the governance board (1999-2002) and as president (2000-2001). Sr. Mary served as the founding chair of Catholic Health Ministries, PJP sponsor of Trinity Health, from 2000 to 2009, and as a member through 2013. She served as chair of Trinity Health from 2010 to 2013, and she served as co-chair of the steering committee that led to the consolidation of Catholic Health East and Trinity Health in 2013. She also served on the board of Hospital Sisters Health System from 2006 through 2014—the last two years as chairperson.
Health care ministry has been a lifelong passion for Sr. Mary. She believes strongly in the baptismal call to ministry. She is recognized as a catalyst, highly influential, forward-thinking and an inspiration to colleagues in sponsorship, governance and leadership.