Sister Geraldine Shea, CSJ

Sister Geraldine Shea, CSJ

(Sr. Ferdinand)

November 8, 1926 – November 11, 2022

We remember her

in the rustling of the leaves

and in the beauty of autumn.


Sister Geraldine Shea, (Sister Ferdinand) was born in November of 1926 to Michael and Mary MacEachern Shea. She was raised in Jamaica Plain with her 5 brothers, John, William, Edward, Robert and Paul, and her 4 sisters Catherine, Mary, Patricia, and Barbara, her youngest, who survives her. Gerry was formerly missioned as an 8th grade teacher at Sacred Heart School in East Cambridge, St. James in Haverhill, Sacred Heart Roslindale and St. Mary School in Brookline. She also lovingly served as the secretary at St. Brigid School in South Boston.

For many years, Sr. Geraldine volunteered at Camp Pablo in Haverhill, nurturing children with muscular dystrophy with her good cooking and happy spirit. Just prior to her move to Bethany, Gerry volunteered at Mt. St. Joseph Academy and St. Joseph Prep. They still grieve her absence there.

In a letter to Sr. Gerry in 1971, our President, Sister A. Catherine Murphy wrote to her, “I hear glowing reports of the work you are doing at Camp Pablo.” In these last few days since Gerry has returned home, I have heard “glowing reports of her work” – as an 8th grade teacher, who enjoyed her students, went beyond the classroom and had a great laugh; as a secretary, who was genuinely welcoming as she greeted students, parents and guests coming into the school, as one who served lunch to the students at the Mount and then at St. Joseph’s prep. She was known for her generosity and kindness, for being a happy presence. As another one of our Sisters, might suggest, “Geraldine made God look good.”

The songs that she chose for this liturgy echo the story of her life. At the beginning, “Here I Am, Lord, then “You are the Center of my Life,” As she grew more deeply into our mission, “One is the Body” –Understanding that the Body of Christ is all of us and the dream of Jesus is “That all may be ONE.” Finally, the last song “Lead me On – Throughout my life and into the next fullness of Life. Sr. Geraldine was: Rooted in Faith, Witnessing Hope, Active in Loving. We trust Our God is grateful to her. And so are we.

Given by Betsy Conway, CSJ
November 17, 2022

Good morning everyone, and thank you for being here to joyfully celebrate Sister Geraldine Shea’s passing to be with Our Lord. I offer a special word of thanks to Father John Culloty, a long-term friend from Aunt Gerry’s 18-year assignment at St Bridget’s in South Boston, who will celebrate Sister’s Funeral Mass in Father’s uniquely Holy Way.

Aunt Gerry’s health had deteriorated rapidly in recent weeks. My last good visit with her was in late August. On that bright and sunny day, we were able to sit outside and escape the confines of her room. Aunt Gerry loved to reminisce about the varied personalities she encountered in her classes over the years; a span of time that included five different parishes and what I count to be seventy years of teaching and providing administrative support. That particular day she wanted to talk about Rafael, a foreign-born national who had only been in the US for a few months. At that time, she was teaching high school students at St Mary’s in Brookline. Rafael was several years older than his classmates, but his prior studies only placed him in the 9th grade. Rafael saw to his liberties the right to inform Aunt Gerry as to what days he would be in school. He drove a sports car with a convertible roof. His family appeared outwardly as being high net worth.

The school year came to a close and my aunt was able to pass Rafael to grade 10 for which Rafael and his family were very grateful. Rafael was insistent about purchasing my Aunt a new scarf. She was uncomfortable stepping outside of her very modest ways, but the more she resisted, however, the more insistent Rafael became. Finally, she relented, reasoning that Rafael was still getting accustomed to social ways in the US at that time. So off they went: Aunt Gerry in the front passenger seat with the roof down, accompanied by a student who had to be at least 35 years younger than her, destined for a trip to Neiman Marcus so Rafael could purchase my aunt a new scarf.

On a personal level, Aunt Gerry introduced me to the true meaning of volunteering for the benefit of people less fortunate than me. Back in my teenage years, the Sisters of St Joseph welcomed the Muscular Dystrophy Association to use a camping facility the order owned in Haverhill for a two-week camping session. My aunt recalled to me when she visited over the holidays how rewarding it felt to her and Sister Pat to spend the two weeks of the camp session providing three square meals a day to a very happy group of 25 campers and 25 counselors. My Aunt told me that I would appreciate the experience; a statement that doesn’t come close to the rewards I experienced during those two-week sessions. Sister Geraldine took daily responsibility for young people in wheelchairs, getting them in and out of the swimming pool, or just hanging out and enjoying the company of individuals that were beset with a life-shortening disease and still managed to keep a smile on their faces. Little did I realize in my second year of counseling I would meet my wife at the camping session. Having just celebrated our 44Th anniversary, I am reminded of the graces God bestows on us by putting the right people in our path.

Aunt Gerry’s choice of readings for today’s Mass makes reference to the strength of love and the enduring qualities of patience and kindness. The readings go a long way to explain how someone at the age of seventeen could make an unconditional lifelong commitment to the Sisters of Saint Joseph that would last 79 years. In a testimonial written by the Order on her 75th Anniversary Aunt Gerry is quoted as saying:

I always wanted my students to know there was something special about being a Sister of Saint Joseph. I met so many people along the way and always tried to present a favorable impression of my experience as a Sister, and the lifestyle of a Sister, both intellectually and spiritually. How very, very fortunate were those students and all of us here over all those years!

Aunt Gerry Rest in Peace!

Reflection given by Sister Geraldine’s nephew, Daniel Friel
November 17, 2022