Sister Vivian Marie Coulon, MSC
Sister Vivian Marie Coulon, MSC
1923 - 2015
Sister Vivian Marie Coulon, MSC (AKA Sister Catherine of Siena) was born December 28, 1923, in New Orleans, Louisiana. After graduating from public high school, she entered the Marianites of Holy Cross on August 30, 1942. In 1943, when she received the habit, Vivian was given the name Sister Mary of Catherine of Siena, a name she cherished until returning to her baptismal name in the late 1960s. She pronounced perpetual vows on August 12, 1947.
Vivian received her bachelor degree in education from Loyola University, her master’s degree in theology from St. Mary’s University and her master’s in speech from Notre Dame University. An avid, dedicated, and enthusiastic learner all her life, Sister Vivian loved to teach and nurture in others the desire to learn. She was involved in education at the elementary and high school levels in New Orleans, Houma, Ville Platte, Opelousas, Morgan City, Gretna, and Eunice. She used her educational skills and love of learning to touch and challenge the minds and hearts of students, parents, and other educators.
A natural leader, her talents and skills were applied in many and varied ways: as a member of the Marianite Constitution revision committee, as Provincial of the Louisiana province of Marianites, and as Congregational Leader of the entire Marianite Congregation. In these roles, Sister Vivian was a healing presence to former members of the Congregation, as she reached out to them and encouraged their participation in congregational activities. Devoted to the foundation and charism of the Congregation, Sister Vivian was involved in the inter-congregational activities of the religious Congregations of the Priests, Brothers, and Sisters of Holy Cross. She was also active in the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, serving as regional chairperson and as a member of the National Board.
Her energy knew few limits as she engaged in clown ministry, PAX Christi USA, Bread for the World, and the Religious Task Force for Central America. Sister Vivian infused creative and innovative ideas and strategies into all of her leadership and administrative experiences.
Following her time in congregational leadership, she offered her graces of a listening and compassionate heart and a deep desire to encourage prayer and discernment in others to the ministry of spiritual direction. Sister Vivian served as spiritual director in Baton Rouge, Covington, Rosaryville, New Orleans, and Alexandria. She also ministered as Assistant Director of the Maryhill Renewal Center in Pineville, Louisiana.
Committed to reaching those most in need, Sister Vivian embarked on another part of her life journey, learning Spanish at the Mexican-American Cultural Center in San Antonio, Texas and Nueva Rosita, Mexico. She then ministered in Chiapas, Mexico and later with the Guantanamo Military Base in Cuba. Her last years of active ministry were spent in the Diocese of Lafayette in the Office of Hispanic Ministry. Here she devoted her time and many gifts to the needs of the Spanish-speaking people from over twenty countries who had found a home in the Lafayette area.
Due to declining health, her last years were spent at Our Lady of Prompt Succor Nursing Home in Opelousas. With a special gleam in her eyes and passion in her heart, Sister Vivian could inspire and challenge by a word, a gesture, a well-prepared speech. However, her greatest means of inspiration consistently came through her actions where she lovingly and faithfully mirrored the justice and love of Jesus Christ in her life. Her final act of self-giving was the donation of her body to science.
Sister died at 3:00 PM at Our Lady of Prompt Succor Nursing Home on February 14, 2015, surrounded by many sisters. Sister Vivian was preceded in death by her parents Sophie Perrin Coulon and Whitney A. Coulon, Sr., her step-mother, Flossie Parr Chauvin Coulon; and her brother, Lee. She is survived by her sister, Marion Coulon Woniger and two brothers, Whitney Coulon, Jr. and Melvin Coulon.
A memorial mass celebrating her life was held in Opelousas at Our Lady of Prompt Succor Nursing Home Chapel on Friday, February 20th, at 10:00 a.m.. A second memorial mass was held in New Orleans on Saturday, February 28th, at 4:00 p.m. at Holy Angels Chapel at which time her two brothers were able to attend.
Former students and friends shared a number of thoughts at the services. For most of us, Vivian was our introduction to the Holy Spirit; her devotion to God’s presence and the aura of faith that surrounded her, taught us to be open and never give up.
One predominant idea was that Vivian was always where she needed to be when she needed to be there. She was one of a kind; nothing was impossible for her and that was part of what she inspired in her students. “We could do it all and do it well. She took us where we were and aimed us toward the stars.”
Her Marianite sisters told of Vivian opening us as a congregation to the directed retreat movement and other ideas that changed us. Her closest friend, Sister Consuelo Champagne, thanked all who participated in these farewells and quoted from Vivian’s memorial card: “God wanted me now; He set me free.” At the close of both memorial Masses, the congregation sang Joe Wise’s song, “Bathe Her in Your Love” and prayed earnestly, “Light her way back home, Love her as your own, for thus she has been and will be again, and is now forever, Amen.”
May our dear Vivian’s soul rest in peace.