May They Rest in Peace: Sr. Maria Riley, OP

Sr. Maria Riley, OP, baptized Helen Riley, died on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023, at the Dominican Life Center in Adrian, Michigan. She was 90 years of age and in the 70th year of her religious profession in the Adrian Dominican Congregation.

Sister Maria was born in Elgin, Illinois, to William and Helen (McCullough) Riley. She graduated from Mount St. Mary Academy, a legacy institution of the Congregation in St. Charles, Illinois, and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Barry College (University), a sponsored institution of the Congregation in Miami Shores, Florida. She earned a Master of Arts degree in English and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in English, both from Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida.

Sr. Maria Riley, OP
Sr. Maria Riley, OP

Sister ministered for over 16 years in all levels of education in Detroit, Michigan, and Melbourne, Fort Pierce, Fort Lauderdale and Miami Shores, Florida. This includes two years at Barry College (University). She also served in Congregation leadership as Co-Provincial of St. Rose of Lima Province from 1973 to 1979. In 1979, Sister moved to Washington, D.C., and joined the Center of Concern, an organization founded by the Society of Jesus and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops focused on global social and economic justice issues, where she served as research staff member and senior advisor until 2012.

Sister Maria centered her research and engagement on women and social and economic justice. She brought the values and principles of Catholic social thought into dialogue with feminism, challenging the church’s patriarchal lens. She was tireless in finding talented colleagues and developing effective international networks to work together on issues of structural economic justice through a feminist lens. A global leader, she engaged extensively through these networks, participating in several United Nations conferences on women and social development, including the historic Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995.

Sister Maria wrote extensively on these issues. She was the author of Transforming Feminism (Sheed & Ward, 1989) and co-author of Trouble and Beauty: Women Encounter Catholic Social Teaching (Center of Concern, 1991). She also authored numerous articles and publications, including a chapter on “Religious Life and Women’s Issues” in Journey in Faith and Fidelity: Women Shaping Religious Life for a Renewed Church (Continuum, 1999). Sister became a resident at the Dominican Life Center in Adrian, Michigan, in 2013.

Sister Maria was preceded in death by her parents; brothers Thomas, James, Philip, William, Jr., Fred and Robert; and her sister, Mary Jane Ryan. She is survived by other loving family and her Adrian Dominican Sisters.

A Funeral Mass was offered in St. Catherine Chapel at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023. Prayers of Committal will be held in the Congregation Cemetery. Memorial gifts may be made to Adrian Dominican Sisters, 1257 East Siena Heights Drive, Adrian, MI, 49221.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Anderson-Marry Funeral Home, Adrian.

Sister ministered in Michigan over 3 years:

  • Our Lady Gate of Heaven, Detroit (1952): Elementary Teacher
  • Adrian Dominican Sisters, Adrian (2013-16): Congregation History Research/Writing

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