There was not a social justice or community service organization in her North Shore community Marion Flynn wouldn’t volunteer with, advocate for or throw support behind.
It was the nature of a woman who felt called to the priesthood and spent many years advocating for women to be ordained in the Catholic Church — an issue that continues to roil the church.
After 33 years as a corporate banker, Ms. Flynn retired in 2007 as senior vice president at Bank of America, after serving as a vice president at Continental Bank. But retirement was just a word to Flynn, who promptly expanded the volunteer work she’d done for years, into a second career of community service.
Ms. Flynn died Oct. 8 after a battle with Parkinson’s disease. She was 69.
“She would most want to be remembered for her charity work. It was important to her,” her only child, James Price, said of her work with myriad nonprofits.
Ms. Flynn worked with Meals On Wheels Northeastern Illinois/Meals at Home; YWCA Evanston/North Shore; Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center; the Child Restoration Outreach Support Organization (CROSO) educating street children in Uganda; the Open Communities fair housing agency; and North Shore United Way and United Way of Evanston.
“For me, I will always remember her for her patience,” her son said.
“She was giving to a fault, kind, and generous. She’d literally pick up strangers on the side of the road because it was raining, even though I told her it wasn’t safe. She just believed in giving back to other people, and that whatever you were given was meant to be shared.”
Born Jan. 22, 1952 in Holbrook, Massachusetts, Ms. Flynn attended Catholic schools — Archbishop Williams High School in her hometown, then Newton College of the Sacred Heart in Newton Centre, Massachusetts, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Theology and English in 1974.
She moved to Chicago to begin her career at Continental, and enrolled at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, where she earned an MBA in 1980.
A longtime resident of Evanston, she was a member of St. Nicholas Church for more than 30 years. She served over the years as church treasurer; member of the Parish Council, Finance Council and Holiday Festival Committee; door greeter, lector and trainer of lectors; and co-founder of the church’s LGBTQ ministry.
Like her hero, Dorothy Day — founder of the Catholic Worker Movement — Ms. Flynn believed in integrating social activism and Catholic religious traditions by helping the poor, combating social injustice and reforming social structures.
“Marion really felt called to the priesthood — probably all of her life,” said Sister Christina Fuller, longtime director of religious education at St. Nicholas, who presided at Ms. Flynn’s memorial service Wednesday.
“Marion actually met Dorothy Day at one point in her life, and Dorothy invited her to work with her. She told her, ‘No, because I’m going to be a priest,” Fuller recounted.
“And Marion always was a priest to us at St. Nicholas, in many, many ways. We’re all called to be priests by our baptism, and she lived that out totally in her life. She was unable to formally celebrate Eucharist, but she made Eucharist happen wherever she was, among whomever she was with.”
Ms. Flynn had been a board member and treasurer of the Washington, D.C.-based, Women’s Ordination Conference since 2013. And she was always seeking to help her community, serving as a member of Evanston’s Parks and Recreation Board from 1983-93, and as president of the United Way of Evanston from 1999-2009.
In 2007, she went to work for Frances Xavier Warde School as a development associate. Then from 2011-2013, she served as development manager for the North Shore United Way.
Other work included serving as board chair of Connections for Abused Women and their Children (CAWC) from 1980-1986. And she had been a board member for CROSO since 2009; and at the YWCA, a member of the steering committee since 2014.
Ms. Flynn was a strong supporter of the School District 65 PTA Equity Project. And for nearly five years, from 2013-2017, she delivered meals weekly to shut-ins for Meals At Home.
She also loved softball and was manager of Evanston’s Girls Night Out softball team for more than 20 years.
“She lived a life of service. She knew from an early age that she was called to be a priest. Although the institutional church didn’t recognize her vocation, the rest of us watched her live that vocation every day of her life,” said her best friend, Eileen Heineman.
“She modeled inclusivity in every fiber of her being, and worked to transform the church,” Heineman said.
“She’d want to be remembered as someone who loved to laugh, who’d do absolutely anything for anyone, and as someone who understood the responsibility of those with the privilege of their voice being listened to, elevating the voices and issues of those who often weren’t heard.”
Besides her son, survivors include a granddaughter, Lula; and two sisters, Kathleen Flynn and Evelyn Mavilia.
A memorial service was held Wednesday at St. Nicholas Church. A funeral Mass and burial is scheduled to be held in Holbrook.