Sister Julia Breen

We remember her In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter

Julia Breen

September 10, 1923 – February 18, 2017

“I call you friend— you did not choose me, No, I chose you”.   

On September 8, 1942 Julia Theresa Breen entered the Sisters of St. Joseph. Having graduated from St. Columkille High School Julia felt the invitation from God to “go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last”. And that is just want Sister Julia Breen did during her 75 years of ministry as a Sister of St. Joseph.

As Sister Eucherius, Sister Julia’s religious name as a Sister of St. Joseph, she answered the call of God as well as her being missioned by the Congregation. Her ministry for many years was spent as a teacher.  Ministering especially as a math and science teacher gave Sister Julia the thrill of watching her students succeed. Her skills as an organizer were utilized when she functioned as a program assistant in Cambridge and Program Director for the public schools in Somerville.

However, Sister Julia’s greatest joy came on July 2, 1985 when she was hired as a residential counselor and member of the house staff at Bridge Over Troubled Waters. In an article Julia wrote for Soundings about her new ministry, she expressed this as “a special joy in my life as a Sister of St. Joseph”. In this article Julia elaborated on how her tasks at Bridge Over Troubled Waters became not only an aid in her spiritual journey, but also presented her with opportunities to provide care, respect and concern for others. These values she was able to execute in her interaction with her clients and the inner city populace that Bridge Over Troubled Waters served.  In the Soundings article Sister Julia wrote, “Who I am as a person in God’s eyes, as well as in my own eyes, has made me what I am as a Sister of St. Joseph and as a worker at the Bridge”.

“Go out and bear fruit…what I command you is to love one another”. Certainly during her life in ministry Sister Julia Breen did this. From the many years she spent in teaching within the Catholic schools of Boston, her labors at Bridge Over Troubled Waters, to assisting in Muscular Dystrophy drives, as well as other avenues of ministry of interest to her, Julia always seemed to be gratified. Life for her as a Sister of St. Joseph had transformed her toward an awareness of the dear neighbor and their daily needs. Sister Julia Breen was as our Constitution states, “stimulated by the Holy Spirit of Love and was receptive to its inspirations”

Sister Julia Breen has spent the latter part of her life here at Bethany. Even as her health declined, she continued to be compassionate towards those with whom she came in contact.

The opening sentence from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians was perhaps pondered in Sister Julia’s heart. “I thank God whenever I think of you; and every time I pray for you, I pray with joy.” Julia’s family was very special to her. I am sure she was always grateful for their nearness and companionship.  Sharing joys and celebrations with her family were very dear to her. In 2008 when Sister Julia had to move to Bethany, her family became her support and comfort, visiting her at Bethany, and sharing cherished stories of family life.

Having known Sister Julia from her days at the Immaculate Conception School when I went to the convent for my three days of vacation, Sister Julia always greeted me with a smile and welcome. Her greeting always continued when I met her, until a while ago. However, in recent months when I did visit Sister Julia in her room on the second floor at Bethany, sometimes I could see a slight smile on her face occur as I was speaking to her. No matter how ill she was, I believe Sister Julia Breen possessed that same kindhearted, pleasant disposition as she had displayed during her active life as a Sister of St. Joseph.

The book of Deuteronomy declares, “Today I set before you life…God will bless you in the land you are entering.” This morning we celebrate Sister Julia Breen’s entrance into that heavenly land where she will experience eternal peace, fulfilling the joy she witnessed in her 75 years ministering as a Sister of St. Joseph.

We, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston give thanks to the Breen family for Sister Julia. We thank God for her presence among us and we pray that Sister Julia will experience the fullness of life in God’s loving embrace.

Gail Donahue, CSJ