Obituary of Sr. Mary Madonna Ashton, CSJ
Mary Madonna (Alberta) Ashton, CSJ
Sister Mary Madonna Ashton, CSJ, of St. Paul, Minnesota, had a long and impressive Minnesota-based career in public service and the private sector. She joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet (CSJ), St. Paul Province in 1946 as she began her career in medical social work (then a new field) at St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul, MN. After moving to St. Mary’s Hospital in Minneapolis, MN, where she spent more than two decades, she transitioned into administration, ultimately serving as president and CEO.
Shortly after resigning her CEO position, MN Gov Rudy Perpich asked her to serve as the state’s Commissioner of Health. During an eight year term, 1983-1991, she addressed public health by taking on the tobacco industry which led to the banning of smoking in public spaces. She also addressed the emerging HIV/AIDS epidemic.
After her term as Commissioner ended, she became CEO of Carondelet LifeCare Corporation and in 1992, impelled by her strong sense of justice and compassion, founded St. Mary’s Health Clinics (SMHC) to serve the uninsured and those ineligible for government programs. Today, the often recognized SMHC includes seven Twin Cities clinics with 150 volunteer physicians, nurses and support personnel who have, this year alone, served over 15,000 people through its clinics and outreach services. She retired from her CEO position in 1999.
She continued volunteering and serving on various committees and in 2011 was asked by then Archbishop John Nienstedt to be the Delegate for Religious for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. She served in that position until 2014 when, at age 91, she retired.
Among her many honors and awards, the Women’s History Project named her a 2016 National Women’s History Month Honoree joining the ranks of such luminaries as Abigail Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton, Dorothy Day, Emily Dickinson, Coretta Scott King, and Eleanor Roosevelt. March 8, 2016 was declared Sister Ashton Day by then Governor Mark Dayton and Sister Mary Madonna Ashton Day by then St. Paul mayor Christopher B. Coleman.
Mary Madonna was a tireless and tenacious advocate for those in need and will be missed by all who knew her. She is preceded in death by her parents Avon and Ruth Ashton and sister Althea Harman. She is survived by sister Mary Luecke; nieces and nephews, many dear friends; and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Consociates. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Friday, November 18, 2022, at 11:00 AM, in Our Lady of the Presentation Chapel, 1884 Randolph Avenue, St. Paul, with burial following at Resurrection Cemetery in Mendota Heights. Memorials preferred to the St. Mary’s Health Clinic, Sisters of St. Joseph Ministries Foundation.
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