‘Be’-ing Sister Mardel

Beloved RSCJ, who spent over 30 years on Broadway, celebrates centennial.

Nano Visser | with permission
r. Mary Mardel cuts into the cake for her 100th birthday celebration in the Mary Mardel, RSCJ Chapel. The cake was covered in mint green frosting and featured the original Society of the Sacred Heart seal in yellow on top.

Laura Mogannam, In-House Media Editor

One hundred candles and rose petals arranged in the shape of the Society of the Sacred Heart logo welcomed alumni, teachers and friends to the chapel March 3 for Sr. Mary “Be” Mardel’s 100th birthday celebration.

The celebration consisted of performances by students, a presentation of a papal proclamation and certificate of Commendation from U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein ’51 in the Mary Mardel, RSCJ Chapel, followed by a reception and receiving line in the Main Hall.

“It was beyond my best hopes,” Mardel, former Director of Schools, said.  “All the beautiful symbolic details and the carefully planned reception were perfect.”

The original seal of the Society of the Sacred Heart, depicting the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, was piped in yellow on a cake and cupcakes, and “Mary Mardel, RSCJ 100th Birthday Celebration” was printed on the drinking glasses, commemorating the event.

“We really took our cue from her in terms of what she wanted for her birthday,” Samantha Tabarez, Alumni & Constituent Relations Director, who helped plan the event, said. “We invited all alumni from the classes of 1940 to 1990.”

Peggy Garlinghouse ’63, mother of history teacher Sarah Garlinghouse ’94, attended Convent High School while Mardel served as Mistress General, overseeing the school.

“At the time, I called her nothing but Mother Mardel,” Peggy Garlinghouse said. “This was the period when we were curtseying if we wanted to open our desks, go to the bathroom or anything really. It was a formal set-up, but she was always very kind and very interested in each student.”

Mardel says the purpose of the Society of the Sacred Heart is to spread the love of Jesus, especially to students, so they know they are loved.

“[Mardel] went to absolutely every event in my life, for instance, when I got married,” Peggy Garlinghouse said. “If she could show up for me all those times, I could certainly show up to the party for her.”

Over 350 people attended the birthday celebration, giving many of them a sense of coming home and a chance to get back in touch with their Sacred Heart roots, according to Tabarez.

“We were all humbled and awed watching her still be as strong as ever,” Tabarez said. “Hearing those stories about how much of an impact she had on so many people was quite