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Sister Mary Alma (Robert Emmett) Sullivan, BVM

Sister Mary Alma (Robert Emmett) Sullivan, BVM, 93, of Mount Carmel Bluffs, 1160 Carmel Drive, Dubuque, Iowa, died Sunday, June 25, 2023, at MercyOne Medical Center.

Rite of Committal for Natural Burial was Tuesday, June 27, 2023 at 1:15 p.m. in the Mary Frances Clarke Chapel at Mount Carmel Bluffs, with burial in the Mount Carmel Cemetery. Funeral services were held Friday, July 7, 2023, in the Mary Frances Clarke Chapel at Mount Carmel Bluffs. All services are available at

Sister Mary Alma was born on Jan. 2, 1930, in Chicago to Daniel and Alma (Freehill) Sullivan. She entered the BVM congregation Sept. 8, 1953, from Queen of All Saints Parish, Chicago. She professed first vows on March 19, 1956, and final vows on July 16, 1961.

Sister Mary Alma was a cinema and communications instructor at Mundelein College and Loyola University in Chicago. She taught high school English and journalism at Regina in Iowa City, Iowa; Cathedral in Chicago; Our Lady of Peace in Saint Paul, Minn.; and Bellarmine-Jefferson in Burbank, Calif. She was an elementary teacher at St. Joseph in Rock Island, Ill.; Holy Cross in Chicago, and St. John in Seattle.

”[Mary Alma’s] interests, activities, and talents were extensive. [She] remained an avid reader for life. She wrote poetry and collaborated with Eliza Kenney to compose cherished songs for the community. She enjoyed nature programs, educational documentaries, and British mysteries. Later in life she took up painting, often transferring to canvas photographs taken on her many trips, and she took classes at the Roberta Kuhn Center. Even as her mobility decreased, she worked for social justice by signing petitions, writing letters, and financially supporting organizations focused on women’s issues and peace initiatives.” (Eulogy).

She was preceded in death by her parents and brothers Daniel (Mary Ellen), Robert (Barb), and John Sullivan. She is survived by a sister-in-law Nan Sullivan, Arlington Heights, Ill.; nieces; nephews; cousins; and the Sisters of Charity, BVM, with whom she shared life for 69 years.

Memorials may be given to Sisters of Charity, BVM, 1100 Carmel Drive, Dubuque, IA 52003 or make an online gift.

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This Post Has 5 Comments
  1. Sister Mary Alma was one of my communications teachers at Mundelein College (BA, ‘89), along with Sister Mary Pat Haley and Betty Prevender. I often think of them whether I am watching the news, or a movie or listening to the radio. They were hugely influential in my life. I am sure I developed my love of documentaries from Mary Alma. She will always be in my thoughts and heart.

    1. Hi, Chantal. Loved reading your comments. I, too, having graduated in ’79, remember things that all three taught me, especially Mary’s comment on how to know if a movie is a good one? Ask yourself, how you feel when leaving the theater and if you are thinking about the film the next day and the next, that was a good film. Betty Prevender had hysterical stories about PR work, especially first-hand since she worked at St. Francis Hospital in Evanston and Mary Pat Haley was equally clever in making points memorable. I then became Alum Director at Mundelein from ’80 to ’84.

  2. Sister Mary Alma (Robert Emmett then) taught English and journalism at Our Lady of Peace High School in St. Paul when I was a student there. She was lively and demanding in a good way, expecting the best of us. She urged “intellectual curiosity,” a phrase and motto that has remained with me ever since. Few things heard at 16 stay with one permanently; Sister Mary Alma gave me, and many others I am sure, a guide for life.

  3. Mary Alma was my aunt’s roommate and one of my mentors though I never took a class with her. She welcomed me to Mundelein and like all of the BVMs taught me how to be a woman in this world. My respect is endless.

  4. I was married to Daniel Sullivan III and we have three daughters, Nora, Hannah and Alaina. Aunt Mary was a big part of our life and I recall so many wonderful visits and phone calls. Aunt Mary was supportive of my work as a nurse and as a mom. She loved each of the girls and celebrated birthdays, holidays and get always with us. She encouraged each of us to continue our education and helped provide strength in our lives. I am very grateful beyond words for the impact she had in our lives and who we each are as women. My youngest daughter does not have many memories of Aunt Mary but we will be sure to share her legacy with Alaina so she knows how important she was in shaping our lives. I am grateful for the BVM community and thank you for taking great care of Aunt Mary all of these years.

    “Aunt Mary, we love you! Thank you for loving us unconditionally!”

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