Oldest woman religious in archdiocese turns 105

Sister Mary Zita Bulter, SMSM, became the oldest member of her religious family, the Marist Missionary Sisters, and the oldest woman religious in the Archdiocese of Boston when she celebrated her 105th birthday on Feb. 11.

Sister Mary Zita was born in Galway, Ireland, on Feb. 11, 1899. She says that early in her life she thought about being a contemplative nun, but after arrival in the United States in the 1920s she heard about a new order of sisters who, like her, were new to America. These sisters served in a place even farther from her new home in Boston than she was from Galway — the South Pacific. In July 1922 Margaret Mary Butler became Sister Mary Zita, SMSM, and after her profession in France in 1925 she was nursing victims of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) in the Fiji Islands.

In April 1940, she and a group of sisters arrived in Jamaica, and for 10 years she served the lepers in Spanish Town. Her subsequent missions were interesting not only because of the missions themselves, but also because of their geographic variety. Beginning in 1953, Sister Mary Zita served at Bedford and Framingham, Mass., on Staten Island and Rhinekbeck, both in New York; at St. Stephen Seminary in Kaneohe, Hawaii; she then did pastoral outreach in San Francisco and served a second term in Jamaica. Since 1973, she has lived at the Marist Missionary Sisters’ house in Waltham and just this year moved to the adjacent extended care facility at Maristhill.

Still alert and active, Sister Mary Zita continues her ministry of intercession and “her telephone ministry” of prayer and encouragement. Her life as a Marist Missionary Sister witnesses that “mission is a way of life.”