Mary Louise St. John
Sister Mary Louise St. John, O.S.B., was a member of the Benedictine nuns of Erie, Pennsylvania. She was born March 13, 1943, in Glens Falls, New York to Joseph St. John and Alvarez DeMarsh, along with her sisters Maria and Murial. As a child she developed muscular dystrophy, from which she would suffer her entire life. Her mother had to fight to provide her with a decent education due to the discrimination children with disabilities faced.
In 1970 St. John entered the Benedictine Sisters of Jesus Crucified at their now-defunct Regina Mundi Priory in Devon, Pennsylvania. They are an enclosed religious order dedicated to making the contemplative life possible for women with physical disabilities. In 1978 she transferred to the Erie Benedictine congregation and professed her perpetual monastic vows at their motherhouse, Mount St. Benedict, in 1982.
St. John worked as a cytotechnologist at Regina Mundi in Devon from 1974 to 1976 and as a tutor there from 1976 to 1978. She also tutored students at Mount St. Benedict from 1979 to 1983, served as the business manager of the monastery's Benet Press from 1980 to 1985 and had ministered as a retreat guide and spiritual companion to gays and lesbians since 1985.
St. John was an advocate for the rights of people with physical disabilities, as well as the gay community while serving on the board of directors of Community Resources for Independence in Erie. She helped create the Womynspace Coffeehouse in 1989, and she spoke at the 1998 Erie Gay Pride Rally.
Sister Mary Louise died September 14, 2003, aged 60, from complications of muscular dystrophy.