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Posted at 10:56 AM ET, 11/30/2010

Sister Mary Ann Luby dies: Homeless advocate was 70

By Nathan Rott

Sister Mary Ann Luby, a Dominican nun who tirelessly advocated for and reached out to the underprivileged, abused and homeless, died Nov. 29 of cancer at the Washington Home. She was 70.

For the past 27 years, Sister Mary Ann served the District's homeless population, working as the director of Rachael's Women's Center and later as an outreach worker for the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless.

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In the final weeks of her life, friends said, Sister Mary Ann was doing what she loved most: walking the streets of Washington, lending a compassionate ear and putting the needs of the city's disenfranchised before her own.

A full obituary will follow. In the meantime, please leave any memories or recollections you have of Sister Mary Ann.

(Photo courtesy Sister Andrea Balconis)

By Nathan Rott  | November 30, 2010; 10:56 AM ET
Categories:  Washington DC-area people  
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Comments

I worked for Mary Ann in 1992/1993 when she was the director of Rachael's Women's Center. I was the Jesuit volunteer there. Mary Ann influenced me profoundly, and because of her mentorship altered the course of my life. Always thinking I would work with children, I have ended up spending my career working with women who are homeless, mentally ill, and/or chemically dependent. That's in part because of Mary Ann.

Mary Ann was one of a kind, truly, one of a kind. Washington, D.C. will most certainly feel her loss.

Posted by: krdaniels65 | November 30, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

I worked for Mary Ann in 1992/1993 when she was the director of Rachael's Women's Center. I was the Jesuit volunteer there. Mary Ann influenced me profoundly, and because of her mentorship altered the course of my life. Always thinking I would work with children, I have ended up spending my career working with women who are homeless, mentally ill, and/or chemically dependent. That's in part because of Mary Ann.

Mary Ann was one of a kind, truly, one of a kind. Washington, D.C. will most certainly feel her loss.

Katy Daniels, Minneapolis, MN

Posted by: krdaniels65 | November 30, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Mary Ann was a wonderful woman. She simply cared because it was the right thing to do. She never judged anyone or made you feel as though you were less than. She always had a open heart and treated everyone with respect. I hope the DC community continues fight for people who need us the most if only in her memory. Mary Ann would want us to keep fighting because she has passed the torch. Rest in peace Mary Ann. My heart is hurting but I will keep fighting because I know you want me to.

Posted by: ConnectedHeart | November 30, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Mary Ann inspired me to be a better advocate and friend by her exceptional example, her kindness and unrelenting passion. She was my mentor in many ways but especially in teaching me to never take no for an answer when you are advocating for another who needs your help. I am devastated that she has left us and we must keep fighting for what is just to honor her name.

Posted by: kbagby | November 30, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

What is truly remarkable is Mary Ann shaped all of us as advocates. She reminded each one of us that to be of service to the poor is a calling and a privilege: a vocation. She inspired each of us to do better, to be kinder, to keep our hearts open,remain alert, meet people where they are, and ,most importantly, change the system that perpetuates poverty. It's our job to finish Mary Ann's list and to stick together to make things happen. Mary Ann is watching. So, no matter where we are we have an obligation to get the job done and continue to love the work and the people we serve. We will hold each other up.


Posted by: JulieTurner1 | November 30, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

It's a sad day for not only the homeless, but for the advocate community. She was a tireless advocate, and she will be missed by the homeless folks that she served.........

Posted by: logi_bare1 | November 30, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

I too worked with Mary Ann at Rachael's Women's Center from 1988-1995. This is such a shock. Mary Ann was one of the strongest people I have ever known. She inspired many of us to do what we do, so she lives on in our hearts and in our work.

Take care up there, Mary Ann. And to the homeless services community in DC, I'm thinking of you all tonight.Take care of yourselves.

Posted by: SueShankle | November 30, 2010 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Mary Ann, I will miss seeing you cross North Capitol and N after a long days work and us walking to the Center together discussing your busy day. If we can only do half the work you did while you were here, can we call ourselves advocates.

Posted by: idenmccollum | November 30, 2010 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Mary Ann Luby was one of two women who came to the Franklin School Shelter in June 2006 to tell its 240 residents about former mayor Tony Williams' plans to close the shelter. That is when I became a homeless advocate. I could always e-mail about any homeless person's situation and she would either give me advise or take care of the matter herself. She could always be counted on to come through. She will be missed greatly.

Posted by: ericsheptock | November 30, 2010 7:52 PM | Report abuse

Her life and work are an inspiration to us all. Her walk among the rejected of this society was with compassion and a serenity that could be felt. She command respect because of her single-minded determination to bring about a change. She answered me in response to the question, why won't the city do more, "They have the means but they do not have the will." I celebrate the life of Mary Ann Luby and am better for having known her.

Posted by: MichaelMcFadden | November 30, 2010 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Mary Ann was a giant, a force of nature. What a great and powerful woman.

Posted by: mifraidin | November 30, 2010 10:16 PM | Report abuse

Mary Ann wasn't just the reason I got into advocacy. She was the reason I got off the street by connecting me with people who could help me. She was so vital a person, I don't think any of us ever thought this day would come. Everyone who mourns her passing should remember that no one who's touched so many lives is ever really gone.

Posted by: David_Pirtle | December 1, 2010 7:17 AM | Report abuse

I've had the honor to work with Mary Ann for the past three years and she was an amazing woman!! She was relentless in her efforts to help and work on behalf of the homeless and underprivileged community. She touched so many lives with just her presence and was a tireless advocate with a strong voice... She was an inspiration to so many .. myself included...She will be missed but never .. ever ... forgotten.... Rest In Peace Sister Mary Ann Luby... Advocate.... and Friend....

Posted by: ReflectionofLyfe | December 1, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Among the company of people we Catholics call a saint is St. Jerome, a doctor of the church and biblical scholar who was well known to be pugnacious and cantankerous. I remember Mary Ann as like St. Jerome in those ways, but only at times. Her professional game face could be as flinty and dour as they come, but that was only because she would not let me or anyone else off the hook in terms of the need to do more, always the need to do more, to help the homeless. The more we knew her, and I had the privilege of knowing her well through our St. Aloysius parish, the easier it was to see the compassionate heart that beat within her and defined her life.

St. Jerome is quoted as saying: “Act as if the maxim of your action were to become through your will a general natural law." That, I believe, could describe Mary Ann's life force as well as her purpose when she came down hard on public officials and nonprofit executives such as me as we all struggled to take care of homeless people even while trying to end homelessness itself as a social problem.

The homeless folks loved Mary Ann because they knew she was unequivocally on their side – even when she challenged them to do better. They appreciated that Mary Ann would, if by nothing more than force of her will, get everyone else onto their side, too, so that (and I believe this was her deepest hope) the fundamental principles of our common life would not only house all the broken and homeless people, but also wipe away all their tears. – Steve Cleghorn

Posted by: jsc1949 | December 1, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

I met Mary Ann Luby when I was a homeless street person living across from the White House, Rachel's was there for me to have food for me, & fellowship

Posted by: myoho11 | December 1, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

One of the great things about Mary Ann is that she heard & respected the opinions of the homeless. She never once gave a holier than thou art impression, which created a deep respect in me, when I had zero respect for providers. She had no God complex, she simply wanted the homeless to be treated better, she provided empowerment to those who knew what it was when they saw it, & was the catalyst for so much change, within myself & now with others who are still homeless. Louise

Posted by: myoho11 | December 1, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

One of the great things about Mary Ann is that she heard & respected the opinions of the homeless. She never once gave a holier than thou art impression, which created a deep respect in me, when I had zero respect for providers. She had no God complex, she simply wanted the homeless to be treated better, she provided empowerment to those who knew what it was when they saw it, & was the catalyst for so much change, within myself & now with others who are still homeless.

Posted by: myoho11 | December 1, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

I really was shocked to learn that you had gone and left me my friend and I'm really going to miss those daily e-mails and phone calls, as well as meeting up with you at the monthly meetings; you fought the good fight and never complained, you stayed focused on the task of advocating for the homeless; you'll be missed by fellow collegue's and consumers;Fair well my friend ,your gone but not forgotten, I'm going to keep your memmories alive in deed.

Posted by: tony52 | December 1, 2010 6:28 PM | Report abuse

I remember years ago when Sr Mary Ann was a Grey Nun of the Sacred Heart. My father and mother offered to take several of the Grey Nuns to Georgia during an Airline strike. Well it so happened that at one point, there was a long traffic delay--cars were bumper to bumper!!
Sr Mary Ann piped up from the back seat with: "Put it in frog and leap!" RIP Sr. Mary Ann! Give my best to Mother and Dad!

Posted by: Nursie | December 2, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

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