Mary Luke Tobin, born and educated in Denver, Colorado, entered the Sisters of Loretto in 1927. The first 23 years of her religious life were spent chiefly as a high school teacher and principal in Loretto-staffed schools. She served in the administration of her congregation for 18 years, 12 of them, 1958-1970, as president.
In 1964, as the newly-elected chairperson of the Conference of Major Superiors of Women Religious (now the Leadership Conference of Women Religious), she was invited as one of 23 women auditors to attend the Second Vatican Council. Subsequently, she led efforts for the renewal of religious life and became involved in many ecumenical endeavors.
Much of her life after 1970 was devoted to justice and peace work, including several peace missions abroad as well as continuing efforts for human rights, nuclear disarmament, and women’s equality.
A personal friend of Thomas Merton, Mary Luke established the Thomas Merton Center for Creative Exchange in Denveri n 1978, and was one of the founders of the International Thomas Merton Society in 1987. She was a popular speaker, conductor of workshops, and retreat leader for many years, focusing on Merton, justice/peace issues, religious life, women’s rights.
Ecumenical involvements occupied much of her time, including her work as an adjunct professor at Denver’s Iliff School of Theology and as director of citizen action on the national staff of Church Women United.
Invited to contribute to the Journeys in Faith series, Mary Luke wrote Hope Is an Open Door, her faith autobiography. She was also the author of chapters in several other books and of some periodical articles.
Mary Luke’s graduate degree in history was earned at the University of Notre Dame. She was the recipient of seven honorary doctorates as well as numerous other honors, including awards from Call to Action, U.S. Catholic, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Women’s Ordination Conference, the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame.
When she died at the Loretto Motherhouse in 2006, she was nationally remembered as a leading religious figure of the second half of the twentieth century. By Cecily JonesCecily Jones, a Sister of Loretto, is a former English and theology teacher, a journalist, and poet. During more than 30 years in Denver, she was involved in many justice and peace efforts in addition to serving as secretary to Mary Luke Tobin. Now a resident at Loretto Motherhouse in Kentucky, she is writing Luke’s biography. “It was a privilege to live in a small community with Luke for over 25 years,” she says, “and now to capture in words her contributions to the church, to women’s rights, to ecumenism, to women religious, and to the work of justice.”