Sister Marilyn Ross (Sister Mary Vianney) was a Sister of Mercy for 63 years. Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Sister Marilyn was the oldest of 11 children. She received her early education at St. Peters in Pleasantville, New Jersey, and graduated from Glennon Catholic High School in Kansas City.
Sister Marilyn entered the Sisters of Mercy in September of 1958, professed her first vows in 1961 and made her final vows in 1966. She earned a Bachelor’s in English from College of Saint Mary and a Master’s in English from the University of Missouri.
Sister Marilyn began her ministry as a high school teacher at Our Lady of Mercy in Red Bluff, California. She then taught at St. Mary in Independence, Missouri, and McAuley Regional High School in Joplin, Missouri.
From 1977 to 1982, Sister Marilyn served as the Vocation Director for the Provincialate in Omaha, Nebraska. During this time, she found her life’s passion: helping to secure quality, affordable housing for low-income individuals. She earned a certificate in housing and economic development from the Development Training Institute. She also participated in a Mercy Housing internship with Blue Hills Homes in Kansas City, Missouri.
This led to Sister Marilyn’s impactful involvement with Holy Name Housing in Omaha, Nebraska. She joined the organization as a grant writer and was then appointed the executive director, “making a difference house after house.” From 1983 until 2015, Sister Marilyn raised over $65 million for Holy Name Housing. She also conducted housing-related programs that included trainings on home ownership and credit card management.
Sister Marilyn was awarded numerous honors for her dedication to strengthening neighborhoods by empowering homeowners. These included the Dorothy Day Peacemaker of the Year Award; a special mention by the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington, D.C.; the YWCA Omaha Tribute to Women Award; the Mother Qualberta Service Award from the Omaha Notre Dame Sisters; and a well-deserved place in the Holy Name Hall of Fame.
In addition to her service with Holy Name Housing, Sister Marilyn was also involved in Catholic Hispanic Ministry and served on the Equity Fund Board.