Sister Mary McCormack

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

Sister Mary McCormack

March 12, 1915 – March 18, 2016

In May 2002, Sister Mary McCormack’s sister, Rita, interviewed her.  At the ending of the interview, Rita asked Mary how she wanted to be remembered.  Mary replied: “I’d like to be remembered as a happy companion along the way, someone who liked to laugh. As a just person, a good listener; one who accepted challenges and wanted to go on living while I live, remembered as a person grateful for all the wonderful blessings that have occurred in my life beginning with my family, my community, and all the friends I’ve met along the way. (And) Hopefully, I have spread a little of God’s love and peace as I’ve passed along”.

What declarations for me to  reflect upon –  the 101 years lifecycle of Sister Mary McCormack – Sister Eulogius,  a life as daughter  in a family of ten children and woman religious as a Sister of St. Joseph for eighty years. Since her death on March 18, many people have spoken about Sister Mary McCormack – her love for life, her acceptance of the situations occurring during her life, and her outstanding compassion as a woman of the church.

Mary McCormack’s first love was her family. Mary spoke in the interview of the joy she experienced in having a sister born into the McCormack family. To quote Mary, “From then on, Rita, you became my living doll”. Evidence of this love has been witnessed within our Congregation from the day Rita entered our Congregation. Proof of Mary’s familial love could be seen when you visited her room here at Bethany. Pictures of her parents, siblings and extended family members hang on the walls and displayed on the window sill. There were also pictures of her dear friends, especially Sister Ernestine.

When she entered the Congregation in 1936, Mary joined her Party, whom she found to be a very friendly group. (One member is present today – Sister Declan). They had not only entered the Congregation during the Depression, but had many experiences of living community that would be significantly unknown to us today. In her mind, however, Mary felt these were pioneering experiences. As the years progressed in Sister Eulogius’ ministry she was asked to widen her intellectual knowledge. She was assigned to study for her Master’s Degree at Boston College and then study at Cardinal Stritch College with the infamous Sister Nila. Recognizing her aptitude and skills as an administrator and the need for enhancing the education of children, Sister Mary was asked to open St. Joseph Reading Clinic in Newton. From the sisters who ministered with her, preparing for the clinic, testing of students, and staffing the clinic, they thoroughly enjoyed ministering with Sister Mary and witnessed her dedication as she displayed compassion working with the parents, encouraging them in the remedial needs of their children. After six years of administration at the Clinic leaving there was not the end of service for Sister Mary. Because of her knowledge in the discipline of reading she continued to be a remedial teacher in Reading Programs at St. Joseph School and St. Raphael School Medford. Mary was even tapped to be a principal. But never a woman to say no, Mary continued in full time ministry until her Golden Jubilee.

Resembling many of our Sisters, Sister Mary found other avenues in her “retirement” to continue ministry – reaching out to the neighbor with her craft works, participating in Congregational events, even risking a new style of community living. Ever so humble, but wise in her predictions, Sister Mary’s  gentle demeanor, broad smile with those rosy cheeks, and loving heart were always present to those who came in contact with her.

Being a woman of foresight, it is not surprising to notice that Sister Mary selected many parts of today’s liturgy, choosing specific bible texts and liturgical music.  She even chose graphics that she wanted placed on the liturgical booklet.

I was struck in reading over Mary’s funeral wishes by her selection of the readings. To me, they speak of who Sister Mary McCormack – Sister Eulogius – was as a member of a large Catholic family, woman religious, and a Sister of St. Joseph for 80 years. One choice for a reading was the passage in the book of Jeremiah speaking of God’s plans for the Hebrews. Mary believed God had plans for her, and trusted that God did listen to her and would give her a future full of hope. Her prayer life made these themes her reality.

Mary agreed with St Paul when he spoke to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord, I say it again: rejoice.” Mary did exult in the Lord and she was instrumental in enabling many of us celebrate life and express joy in it. Her choice of John’s Gospel passage was a message from her to us as we sit in this chapel this morning. “Do not let your hearts be troubled…have faith in God… I am going to prepare a place for you… and take you with me.” Mary believed this. And as Sister Rita and Sister Ernestine companioned her and listened to her prayerful words, for God to come to her, they confirmed with Mary her wish with their own prayer.

Sister Mary McCormack is an icon for all of us as Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston. Our hearts are saddened as we gift her back to God. Her presence with us has been a blessing, not only to us but to her family, who loved her so much. But, we all can be comforted, knowing that Sister Mary McCormack – Sister Eulogius- is enjoying  the companionship of her parents and siblings, her Party and friends sharing in the visible presence of God, who was her way, her truth and her life.

Sister Mary, we give thanks for your generous gift of life as you journeyed with so many of us. We rejoice that you are now with your loving God. May you rest in peace.

AND you did spread God’s love and peace as you passed along.

Gail Donahue, CSJ