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Benedictine sister dies at 95

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Benedictine Sister Mary Leo Wirt died April 9, just after celebrating her 95th birthday. Born Shirley Bethleen in Richmond to Emmett and Agnes (O’Connor) Wirt, she entered St. Benedict Monastery in Bristow 75 years ago. Shortly after profession, Sister Mary Leo began her teaching career at Linton Hall Military School in Bristow, where she would eventually serve for 38 years. She taught at multiple schools in Richmond, and at St. Charles in Arlington.

Sister Mary Leo retired from teaching in 1996, becoming the community procurator until 2003. From 2003 until her death, Sister Mary Leo worked tirelessly for the benefit of the monastery through the annual Holydays Holidays Sale. The specialty towels, bibs, and other items handmade by her were always in great demand, and she inspired many others to join her in that service. Her love of community, family and friends was deep and loyal, reflecting her great faith and trust in God. 

Sister Mary Leo was preceded in death by her brothers, Jacob Edward, Thomas Clinton, and Emmett Jr., and her sisters Evelyn Wirt Berry, Cele Wirt Simpson, and Benedictine Sister Jeanne Wirt. She is survived by many nieces and nephews and their children, and the 29 sisters of her Benedictine community. A public celebration of Sister Mary Leo’s life will take place at St. Benedict Monastery at a future date, due to the current health restrictions. Donations in lieu of flowers may be made to the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020