Sister Maryanne Beeler, who worked various jobs before answering a call at age 36 to be a Catholic nun, died Jan. 19 of cancer, her family said. She was 60.
A Sacramento native, Sister Beeler drifted among part-time jobs after graduating from St. Francis High School in 1970. At 21, she landed at St. Peter's School and spent eight years as a secretary and teacher's aide. Although she enjoyed working with children and nuns of the Sister Servants of the Blessed Sacrament, she had doubts about her prospects.
"I knew I was never going to be rich working at the school nor meet a man, because every male there was between 5 and 13 years old," she wrote in a story last year for the Sister Servants' website.
So she took a job at the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, where her father had been a superintendent. She made more money and worked mostly with men, stocking maintenance trucks and stripping parts for recycling but she missed the children and nuns at St. Peter's.
After reflecting on her life, she decided to enter the convent of the Sister Servants and became a nun in 1989.
"When she made contact with the sisters, she was impressed with the simplicity of their lives," said her sister, Kathleen Spagnolo. "She loved living together in a community and serving children and families in schools."
Sister Beeler worked as a teacher or administrator at Catholic schools in Los Angeles, Bakersfield, El Centro and Calexico. Meanwhile, she earned a degree in education and administration from California State University, Bakersfield.
She returned to Sacramento in 2005 as the first principal at John Paul II Elementary School. She served two years, until cancer in her lungs spread to other organs.
"She absolutely believed in Catholic education, and she was an excellent teacher," said Sister Lilia Barba. "She was very playful with all the students and very much loved."
Born in 1952, Maryanne Camille Beeler was raised near McKinley Park. Besides attending Catholic schools, she grew up fishing, hunting and camping on weekends and vacations. Family photographs show her posing with a shotgun among members of Ducks Unlimited.
"If people knew the way she grew up and spent the first 30 years of her life and saw the transition she made to settling into life as a nun, they'd be surprised," her sister said. "She was an outdoor person who loved to have fun."
Sister Beeler shared her love of the outdoors with her religious family. She invited nuns of the Sister Servants, including many who are from Mexico, to join her on camping and fishing trips at Jackson Meadows Reservoir near Truckee.
"For a lot of the sisters, it was their first experience out in the woods or a tent," Spagnolo said. "She encouraged quite a few of them to hang up their habit and put on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt. She opened their eyes to a whole different way of life."