Sister Mary Ann Luby: In Memoriam

All of us at the Law Center were shocked and saddened to learn yesterday that Sister Mary Ann Luby had died suddenly, less than two weeks after receiving a cancer diagnosis.

The suddenness was not the only reason for our shock.  Sister Mary Ann, outreach worker at the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, was such an energetic, passionate and persistent advocate that it is almost impossible to imagine her gone. Here in our home community of Washington, D.C., her advocacy has been a major force for change over the past 27 years. Its influence has been felt not only locally, but nationally as well.

I first met Sister Mary soon after my arrival in Washington in late 1985. She was then running Rachel Women’s Center, and she was one of a very small group of social service providers to whom I could turn to connect national advocacy to the real world facts and experiences of homelessness.  I got to know her better when she was at the Legal Clinic, and our work began to intersect more closely.

As a key organizer at the Legal Clinic, Mary Ann regularly mobilized all manner of advocacy aimed at increasing resources and rights for homeless people in the city. I will always remember receiving her emails and calls, urging me to go to a rally or turn out people for a march, to write to the city council, to make the case for the city’s homeless folks to the federal government. She was always prodding, sometimes scolding me to do more—and she was effective. I could rarely say no to her.

For her part, she always came through whenever we asked for her help. A few years ago, we were organizing our annual right to housing Forum in Washington, and we wanted to include a rally in support of housing rights in front of the Capitol as part of it. Our human rights attorney, Eric Tars, describes the instrumental role that Mary Ann played in helping him organize the rally:

“Within a couple of days we went from an idea in my head to several fantastic local speakers, commitments from dozens of local advocates to turn people out, and a flashy background prop. The resulting rally had over 100 people shouting for housing rights on the Senate green.  I know she was doing tireless work behind the scenes, but Mary Ann made it seem like she could practically snap her fingers and have 100 people show up to rally for whatever homelessness-related cause needed rallying.  And in many ways, she probably could, because that was how deep respect for her ran in the community. “

Mary Ann was 70 when she died, but she always seemed like she could go on forever—or at least a few more decades. The longevity of her vigorous advocacy was an inspiration. For me personally, having been at this for 25 years myself, her example was affirmation that it is truly possible to dedicate oneself to fighting for justice over the very long haul.

Her advocacy, service, and care affected thousands of people who benefited directly from her efforts. Her example affected many more. In these ways and more, her spirit lives on. We mourn her and the big loss to our advocacy and our community, and to our colleagues and partners at the Legal Clinic. But let us always remember Mary Ann’s spirit, and let it guide us, to the day when her vision of housing and justice for all will be realized.

-Maria Foscarinis, Executive Director

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4 Responses to Sister Mary Ann Luby: In Memoriam

  1. T Britten says:

    My sincere condolences to everyone for your loss.

  2. Florence Roisman says:

    Sister Mary Ann was a central figure in the campaign to achieve justice for poor people. By her integrity, commitment, compassion, and humor, she taught all of us. She taught advocates to seek full relief with honesty and understanding. She taught poor people to have confidence in and assert their full humanity. She taught government officials to feel keenly their failings when they violated their obligations to human beings who were suffering.

    One of my favorite memories of Mary Ann is an occasion when she identifiederself as “Sister Mary Ann,” which I think she did not do often in her work with homeless people. She did this very effectively when she represented the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless in a meeting with Andrew Cuomo, who was then either Assitant Secretary or Secretary of HUD. Her arguments to Secretary Cuomo certainly should have been more than enough to persuade him to do what she was urging, but — always the keen advocate — she knew that her religious position would give her arguments extra strength with him.

    Among the aspects of Mary Ann’s life that I hope always wills stay with me are her clear-headed determination that justice must be served, her compassion for the failings of powerful people as well as those without power, and her sense of humor, which leavened all the pain with which she lived. Rest in Peace, dear and admired Sister Mary Ann.

  3. DCHA Family Commissioner Aquarius Vann-Ghasri says:

    She Walked with us
    She Talked with us
    She Save us hope
    She Fought for us

    She Listened to us
    She Surely loved us
    We Remember her deeds

    A Legend among us
    A Patron of Trust
    Our Sister
    Our Sheroe
    For Our betterment
    She would FUSS

    May Peace Be Upon You,
    Mary Ann Luby
    You Are a Gem
    Among us
    Our PERSONAL Rub
    greg hill

  4. SabinaPrendergast says:

    She was my twin – and I remember her every day. She was always for others and wanted nothing for herself. We can only continue in her spirit. Let’s dance!

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