DignityUSA and Dignity/Philadelphia are mourning the death of DignityUSA Past President Mary Louise Cervone. Mary Louise, 54, passed away on Tuesday, February 05, 2013 after a brief but courageous struggle with cancer.
Mary Louise had a wonderful spirit, full of energy, concern and professionalism. She loved gardening, camping, cooking, and anything about her beloved son, Danny. Mary Louise was most recently Chief Financial Officer of Children's Crisis Treatment Center, and previously served in financial leadership positions with Gaudenzia and Philadelphia FIGHT, an AIDS services organization. As an accountant, she followed in her father's footsteps, and served as CPA with the Margolis firm and in her own practice. Earlier in life she was an accomplished musician and music teacher. She served as President of DignityUSA, active in advocacy for justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Catholics. She was a graduate of Immaculata University.
Mary Louise is survived by her son Daniel Burke Cervone and the love of her life, her partner Mary Bradley. Also: siblings Frank (Judith Algeo), Colette (John Pavain), Paul (Ellen) and Diana, her siblings-in-law Jane Robinson (Jeff) and Judith Davis (Zach), and many loving nieces and nephews. She was predeceased in life by her parents Mario and Rita Cervone.
As news of her passing circulated, remembrances and tributes poured in from around DignityUSA. Patrick McArron, who served as Vice-President during Mary Louise’s administration, said, “Never one to shy away from a challenge and often outspoken, she was a remarkable woman. I will always cherish the times spent with her as I am sure that is the case with all who knew her.”
Another former DignityUSA President, Patrick Roche, who traveled to Vatican City with Mary Louise and Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke in 2001, wrote, “I will always remember our trip to Rome and the three of us standing in St. Peter's Square singing and praying below the Pope's window. I have also always appreciated the great work Mary Louise did in re-visioning the way our national and regional structures are configured. May she rest in peace.”
Tom Streeper, a member of Dignity/Philadelphia and longtime member of DignityUSA's Board of Directors was a close friend of Mary Louise's, and he sent this tribute: "Mary Louise Cervone was an inspiration to Dignity/Philadelphia and DignityUSA. She had a vision for our organization, and she will forever be part of our history as a powerful voice of this community. Her passion and love for Dignity will never be forgotten."
DignityUSA President Lourdes Rodriguez-Nogues remembered Mary Louise as a visionary leader who modeled the kind of activism that reflected Dignity’s goals and values. “Mary Louise served DignityUSA in many different ways during a period of great transition. She was passionate and generous in her leadership. This organization will always be indebted to her,” said Lourdes.
Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke was first hired into that position by Mary Louise. “I was honored and inspired to serve with Mary Louise,” said Marianne. “She was truly passionate about DignityUSA’s mission and was determined to overcome any obstacle to do what she thought we should. She was willing to risk arrest in Rome by organizing the first sit-in in St. Peter’s Square in something like 75 years to raise awareness of the Vatican’s attacks on LGBT Catholics. She put DignityUSA on the front line of advocating for victims of clergy sex abuse. I remember standing outside the bishops’ meeting in Dallas in 2002, and her calls to them to be accountable for the damage they’d done. She led us in organizing a Mass for survivors and their families when the bishops refused to welcome them in. She was strong, totally committed to her adored son Danny, kind, and funny. She challenged us to give our best to Dignity.”
A celebration of life was held for family and friends on Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 2:00 pm at William Way Community Center, 1315 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Memorial gifts in lieu of flowers are invited to be sent to the Support Center for Child Advocates, 1900 Cherry Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103 (www.advokid.org ).