Sister Mary (Mary Bernard) Laxague (1931 – 2022)

Sister Mary Laxague died on August 11, 2022 at age 90. She served as a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur for 71 years.

In the late 1940s, the small mining town of Ely, Nevada, had no Catholic schools, and it was only because of a high school acquaintance that young Mary Laxague even heard of the College of Notre Dame (CND) in Belmont, California. She decided to attend the college based on that recommendation and was in the last class to receive associate's degrees in 1951. Mary was quite taken with the Sisters who taught at the College. At that time, they were celebrating the  100th anniversary of their arrival in California, and Ralston Hall was being readied for the celebration. "It was amazing," Sister Mary (Mary Bernard) recalls. "What struck me was the sight of the Sisters, in their blue aprons, cleaning the chandeliers in Ralston Hall. A professor was not above doing that kind of work."

Mary entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur later in 1951, and through her early ministries she experienced the changes that occurred, not only in the Church through Vatican Council II, but in American society as well. She earned her master's in business education at San Jose State in 1965, and after 14 years of teaching in Notre Dame elementary and high schools in Watsonville, Marysville, and Seattle, she became a professor at the Business College at CND (now NDNU). Six years into her tenure, she became Dean of Students for the College, a job she truly loved.

Sister Mary Laxague, SNDdeN, with students.

In the 1990s, after more than 30 years in teaching and administration at the College, she became a member of the Leadership Team for the California Province. A major part of her responsibility as a team member was to oversee the construction of the Province Center in Belmont, where she lived for nearly twenty years. For years, she worked with the Province Finance Office and also served on the Board of Trustees for Notre Dame de Namur University.

Former NDNU colleagues Kris Zavoli, George Mayer and Sister Mary Laxague.

At the news of Sister Mary's passing, NDNU President Dr. Beth Martin shared the following:

"Mary lived our Hallmarks and I am deeply grateful for all her countless contributions to NDNU over the many decades. Many of us have fond memories of her and marveled at her ability to make a difference in people’s lives. You could always find her walking around the campus … engaging with faculty, students and the surrounding community."

Sister Mary Laxague during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Sister Mary took the time to keep healthy and flexible. She practiced yoga for 20 years, and walked every day around the NDNU campus, sometimes on the street that bears her name–Laxague Drive! An anonymous donor made a gift to the University in her name because Sister Mary "had made a difference in that person's life." She never knew who that person is, or was, and respected the donor's request for privacy. Perhaps that donor saw in Sister Mary what Mary herself saw in those Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur working on the chandeliers in Ralston Hall more than 70 years ago: she was a professor, a Sister, not above doing any kind of work, willing to do whatever it took to make a difference.

A Mass will be celebrated for Sister Mary on Monday, September 19, 2022 at 10:30 a.m. at Cunningham Chapel on the Notre Dame de Namur University Campus. Burial will take place at 2:00 p.m. at Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma.

Sister Mary's Ministries

1954-55 Moreland Notre Dame School, Watsonville, Calif. (Teacher, 6th Grade)
1955-57 Notre Dame High School, Marysville, Calif. (Teacher)
1957-62 Mora High School, Watsonville, Calif (Teacher)
1962-67 Blanchet High School, Seattle, Wash. (Teacher)
1967-73 College of Notre Dame, Belmont, Calif. (Faculty, College of Business)
1973-86 College of Notre Dame, Belmont, Calif. (Dean of Students)
1987-99 Notre Dame de Namur University, Belmont, Calif (Faculty)
1999-2003 SNDdeN Province Center, Saratoga, Calif. (Province Leadership)
2003-Present SNDdeN Province Center, Belmont, Calif. (Volunteer Services)

If you’d like to make a gift to the Sisters in Sister Mary’s honor online, please click here or, to give by mail or phone please click here.


  1. Please post when services will be held for Sister Mary.
    I attended Notre Dame from 1983 to 1985 then transferred. Sister Mary was very encouraging to me.

    1. Thank you for your fond remembrance of Sister Mary, Patrice. We will update this page with the details about the services, and I will email you them directly.


      (For the Sisters)

  2. Sister Mary was a family friend I have known her all my life. I remember the night before my graduation from NDNU she was joking she would trip me when I walked by her on stage. As I walked by her she made the motion to put her foot out, of course she never would but that memory is just who sister Mary was. She will be missed dearly.
    Please let us know when services will be she was an amazing lady and an inspiration as all the sisters are.

    1. Our condolences for your loss, Sioban, and thank you for sharing that cute story! We will update the post with the funeral information and I will also email you directly.

      (for the Sisters)

  3. In the fall when I was a 3rd grade student at Notre Dame Grammar School in Marysville, CA My Father went on his usual, much anticipated deer hunting trip to Nevada. This year he chose Ely, Nevada. My Mother and my Father’s hunting partners wife decided to go with them as they were staying in a hotel with gambling.

    During that trip my Mother met somehow who told her there was a young nun in Marysville from Ely. She taught in the High School. As soon as my parents returned home it was my task to go into the intimidating high school and find Sr. Mary Bernard.

    Thus began a family friendship with Sr. Mary, my family, and Sr. Mary’s late dear sister Helen. and her late brother-in law Earl Anderson who were so very good to me. Whenever they visited Sr. Mary in Marysville I always anticipated with excitement the dinners my Mother would prepare.

    We always visited Sr. Mary if she was at Belmont during the summers. Seeing Ralston as a 4th grader, being served lunch by the nuns for driving Sr. Mary and Sr. Michael Ann there, followed by a tour of the campus decided for me where I would attend college.

    Sr. Mary was transferred to the College during my years there and lived in St. Joseph’s with me as she did a generation later when my daughter Sioban.

    Sr. Mary was my Mentor. A source of strength, advice, and encouragement since I was that intimidated little 3rd grade girl meeting her for the very first time.

    I will miss you Sr. Mary.

  4. Pat, SR. Mary touched many lives. Loved reading your memories of Sr. Mary. What a blessing she was to you and many others.
    Kathy Nixon Madigan
    Class of 1965 – Blanchet High School
    Class of 1969 – College of Notre Dame

  5. I had Sr. Mary as my typing teacher when I was a Senior at Blanchet High School in Seattle. One day Sr. Mary announced in class that Allstate Insurance was looking for 5 girls to work at their office after school However, you needed to be 5'5" tall to reach the file cabinets. I applied and was hired. Later that year I applied to attend CND after Sr. Marion visited Blanchet. Sr. Mary encouraged me to attend CND which I did.

    During my sophomore year at CND, I was one of 16 girls that participated in the Oxford University study abroad program for 1966 to 1967. In the middle of the year, guess who showed up to be one of the sisters to supervise our group – Sr. Mary. I was fortunate to get to know her much better. Sr. Mary had a great sense of humor and was so enjoyable to talk with.

    After graduation, I visited CND several times when I traveled to CA from WA. I always made it a point to call on Sr. Mary. She was a very special person and had a positive influence on my life as well as many others. Thank you for being part of my life.

    Kathy Nixon Madigan
    Class of 1969 CND

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