Sister Marie Julianne Farrington, former General Superior of the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur, died Saturday in St. Mary's Center. She was 81. Her death was the result of a stroke suffered in early January.
She was born Joan Farrington in Detroit, moved to Buffalo as a child, and graduated from Mount St. Mary Academy and entered the Sisters of St. Mary in 1948. She made her final profession in 1957.
Sister Marie Julianne was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from Catholic University and undertook graduate studies at Catholic University and Notre Dame. She was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, in 2005 from Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, Conn., where she served as special assistant to the president for five years until April 2011.
Early in her religious life, she taught in several Buffalo area schools: Blessed Sacrament, Mount St. Mary, St. John the Baptist, all in the Town of Tonawanda; and St. Mary's Seminary in Buffalo.
From 1980 to 1982, she worked with the Jesuit Refugee Services at Ban V'hai camp in Thailand. Returning to Buffalo, she became director of religious education at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Colden, and in 1987, she was co-director for two years at St. Columban's Retreat Center in Derby.
Most of Sister Marie Julianne's life was dedicated to direct service in her religious community. She was responsible for the spiritual and intellectual formation of the younger members of the community. Following the Second Vatican Council, she was instrumental in articulating and implementing the prophetic dimension of apostolic religious communities worldwide.
At various times, she served as provincial superior and regional superior of the Eastern Province, and in the 1970s was elected a member of the General Council of her congregation.
In 1989, she became the first American member to be elected general superior of her congregation. Throughout her 12 years as the leader of the congregation, she emphasized the spiritual dimension that reinforced the unity of the congregation and the authenticity of religious life lived faithfully within the cultural context of each country.
In the midst of the genocide of 1994, she traveled to Rwanda and lived with her community for nearly two months. She facilitated the evacuation of her sisters and several lay people. In 1996, she was summoned to testify at the Arusha International Court of Justice.
Upon finishing her years in leadership, Sister Marie Julianne spent four years at Mount Saviour Monastery in Elmira.
She is survived by her brother, Robert.
A vigil will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday in St. Mary Center, 241 Lafayette Ave., followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 10 a.m. Wednesday in Annunciation Church, Lafayette Avenue and Grant Street.