Sister Mary McLeod, CSJP was born in Glasgow, Scotland on 5 November, 1941. She was the only child of her parents, Roderick McLeod and his wife, Marion (or Morag). Her parents shared the same surname, but her mother’s family used MacLeod while her father was McLeod, without the “a”. Both parents hailed from the Outer Hebrides, her mother from Barra and father from Eriskay and, like so many people from the islands, they had come to the mainland in search of work. Gallic was the language spoken in the home and Mary’s soft lilting voice always bore traces of her first language. Sadly, her parents died in the year before she entered our Congregation, her mother from a heart condition and her father in a tragic accident at work.
Mary took the name Sister Fiona at her Reception into the Congregation in 1961 but reverted to her baptismal name when this was allowed. She trained as a teacher in London and began her teaching career at St Wilfrid’s High School, Featherstone, West Yorkshire. Most of the students came from mining communities and Mary found the directness and simplicity of the people very appealing. However, the growing demands of academic standards resulted in her return to studies, this time to Heythrop, a Jesuit college of the University of London, where she gained a BD degree in 1979. Further study at an international programme, Ministry Training Services, in Denver, Colorado, USA turned her talents in another direction and from the 1980’s Mary was involved in formation in the Congregation, in spiritual direction, retreat work and in accompanying young adults in the Movement for Faith and Justice.
The Congregation and the needs of those around her continued to make other demands on her gifts. She volunteered at the Lighthouse in London, a multi-purpose unit for people living with AIDS, a ministry which, she said, brought her face to face with true values and helped her reflect more deeply on her own life. Within the Congregation she was Assistant Province Leader during the early 1990’s and at the 1996 General Chapter of the Congregation she was elected Assistant Congregation Leader, a service that involved her living in Washington, DC for six years, during which time she became well known and much appreciated by the whole Congregation. On her return to the UK Mary moved to Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, Scotland. She continued to be available for spiritual direction and retreat work, and she volunteered at the Anam Cara Living Centre in Glasgow, a facility for persons with blood borne viruses, and at Bridging the Gap, a drop-in centre for refugees and asylum seekers, also in Glasgow. In both places her presence was greatly appreciated. Within the Congregation Mary was a generous and wholehearted participant, never missing meetings and undertaking various tasks such as preparing prayer services and liturgies. She was appointed to the planning committee for the 2014 Congregation Chapter but by that time illness had struck and she could not participate in the Chapter itself.
In 2014 Mary was diagnosed with an illness that attacked her immune system. She remained hopeful that a cure might be found but as her need for antibiotics and blood transfusions became ever more frequent that seemed unlikely. The end came rather quickly on August 5th, 2016. She was buried on the island of Barra on Friday, August 12th, 2016 close to the graves of her parents and of relatives stretching back many generations. Mary’s island heritage had always been very much part of her being, not simply in her voice or in her special way with all God’s creatures – there was the robin that ate from her hand – but in her quiet insightful approach to life and her discerning spirit. She sang well and danced with lightness, grace and gusto. Her performance of the sword dance was legendary in the Congregation; indeed, as she grew in her commitment to the charism of the Congregation it seemed symbolic that she could lay down the swords (even if they were just broom handles) and dance over them. We all miss her but we know she rests in peace.
"You will hope if God blesses your work to sow the seeds of peace in modern society."