“For an ordinary person, I’ve had an extraordinarily happy and interesting life.”
– Sister Marie Carmel Dunning


Sister Marie Carmel Dunning, 101, a Sister of Charity of Leavenworth (SCL) for 71 years, died on September 3, 2022, at Ross Hall in Leavenworth, Kan. Sister Marie Carmel touched many lives through her ministries in education and health care, and with her timeless poetry.

Anna Lee Dunning was born on June 12, 1921, in Miles City, Mont., the fourth of 13 children of Forest and Beatrice (Tucker) Dunning. She grew up on a farmstead in the Ashland-Otter Creek-Tongue River area. This simple, ranch-dwelling family endured poverty during long droughts and the Great Depression. Three wars personally affected the Dunning family, where six brothers and one sister were in the service but fortunately came home without serious injury. Anna Lee naturally inherited a strong work ethic, a profound respect for others, and deep roots that always reminded her of her resilient beginnings.

Before she met the SCLs, she knew about their origins from reading biographies of St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac to whom the religious Community traces its origins. On August 21, 1951, at the age of 30, she entered the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, a Community she had already grown to love. She professed her final vows as Sister Marie Carmel on August 22, 1959.

For 23 years, her ministries included teaching in elementary and high schools across the west and mid-west, including three years as principal at Sacred Heart School in Falls City, Neb. She then shifted from education to healthcare. Upon completion of her clinical pastoral education, Sister Marie Carmel worked in many pastoral care capacities at a variety of hospitals. When she retired, Sister Marie Carmel dedicated her time to social justice advocacy, corresponding and doing outreach and prayer with women in the Kansas City area, and to her poetry.

Preceding Sister Marie Carmel’s death were her parents, her nine brothers Les, Glen, Leonard, Jim, Charlie, Frank, George, Dick, and Tommy, and her two sisters, Mina Tonkavich and Patty Anderson. Lena Harris, the last surviving sibling, passed away a week and a day after Sister Marie Carmel at the age of 93. Sister Marie Carmel will be missed by her many nieces and nephews, friends, and all of her Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth and Associates.

A vigil will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, September 21, in Ross Chapel, SCL Mother House, Leavenworth. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated in Ross Chapel at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, September 22. Interment will follow in Mount Olivet Cemetery, Mother House grounds. Memorial contributions can be made to the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, 4200 S 4th Street, Leavenworth, Kan. 66048. Arrangements made by R.L. Leintz Funeral Home.


Click below to read the SCL Community remembrance for Sister Marie Carmel.
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Backtracking, a poem by Sister Marie Carmel Dunning