Sister Mary Agnes Mills, CSJ 
(Sr. Vincent de Paul)

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

August 4, 1925 – May 16, 2024

In the 79th year of her Religious Life. 
Entered:  September 8, 1945

 

“Everyone loved Mary.”

“She was a favorite.”  

“She was so easy to be with.” 

“Even if I weren’t free to preside, I would make myself free for Sister Mary.”  

These are some of the words I have heard in these recent days from former students, sisters with whom she lived and worked, and family.

Mary Agnes Mills was born on August 4, 1925 to Anthony and Matilda Mills in New York City.  She was the youngest of three with two older brothers, Harry and John. After losing both parents by the age of seven, Mary and her brother John moved to Cambridge and were raised lovingly by her aunt and Uncle Ed and Anna Broderick. It was important to Mary that they be acknowledged for the care she received from them following the heartache of her parents’ deaths. 

Because Mary’s roots were in New York, she was a loyal and unashamed Yankees fan. Despite this, she won her way into our hearts.

Through a friendship, Mary was introduced to Sister William Clare, under whose guidance and prayerful example she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in the party of ’45. As Sister Vincent de Paul, Mary taught several years in many of our elementary schools. Her students remember her as kind, fair, and a very good teacher. When asked what they wanted to be when they grew up, many of her 4th grade girls stated, “A sister, just like Sister Vincent de Paul.” 

During the summer months, Sister Mary would volunteer at Bethany, and it was here that her attraction to nursing brought her full-time to Bethany Health Care Center. Her gentle and kind presence — and her willingness to do whatever was needed, cheerfully — made her a welcome and valued member of the Bethany Community for many years.

Sister Mary planned for this celebration of her life with attention to every detail. She has let us know what she believes and how she has always trusted the God who brought her to us. In the Gospel shared during Sister Mary’s celebration of life, Mary tells us of her faith in the resurrection of Jesus, and of our call to go and tell the others, as Mary Magdalene did. One of the songs she had listed was, “All is Well.” This was what she wanted us to hear and to know — that all is well now, she is at home with the God of her longing, and the God she knew longed for her. 

Given by Betsy Conway, CSJ, on May 22, 2024

 

 

Thoughts of Sister Mary Mills (or Sr. Vincent de Paul, as was her name for the first 20 years in the Convent) from her nephew…

Sr. Mary’s father died when she was five years old. Her mother died when she was seven. She was with her mother when she died and distinctly remembers her mother’s last words, “Who will take care of my children?” Imagine being a 7-year-old girl and hearing that? Who will take care of my children? Who will take care of me? Of course, this prompted me to ask, “Well who did take care of you?”

In a very matter of fact reply, Sister Mary Mills said, “Oh, we were farmed out.”

I replied, “Farmed out to a relative or a neighbor?”

“Oh no, we were each farmed out to three different families.”

When I say three, it was Sr. Mary, at seven years of age, brother John, a 10-year-old, and brother Harry, a 13-year-old.

While they were farmed out, the elders considered who should take them permanently. One thought was to send them back to Ireland to live with their mother’s sister, Bridgett. However, that was decided against because they did not think Sr. Mary would survive the voyage due to her respiratory illness. So it was decided to send them to Cambridge to live with their mother’s sister, Anne who was married to Ed Broderick. A couple we affectionately referred to as “Auntie” and “Uncle.” Therefore, they were escorted to Boston where they met Uncle Ed who took them to his Cambridge home to begin their new life.

All was fine — except brother Harry wanted no part of this. According to Sr. Mary, Harry was going back to NY, ‘if he had to walk’. In addition, if you think; at the age of 13, Harry was in middle school, preparing for high school. He had a vast network of friends; NYC / Cambridge, the Yankees / the Red Sox. I threw that in for Sr. Mary’s sake.

Therefore, Sr. Mary and brother John began their new life in Cambridge. When Sr. Mary was in high school, she was a baby sitter for a Boston family. This Boston family owned a summer home on Cape Cod. One year, they asked Auntie and Uncle if Sr. Mary could join them for the summer, and they agreed.

On a day with a few hours free, Sr. Mary would walk to the Cape Cod Canal to watch the boats pass through. One day, a young man (I assume high school-aged) introduced himself. His name was Joseph (Joe) McGonagle. They met at the canal several times and Joe learned that Sr. Mary lived in Cambridge most of the year. He suggested Sr. Mary stop by St. Paul’s church in Harvard Square and introduce herself to his aunt, Sr. William Clair.

And that fall, Sr. Mary did just that and began a friendship with Sr. William Claire. This friendship developed and Sr. William Claire convinced Sr. Mary to join the Sisters of St. Joseph and, in fact, was her sponsor.

Therefore, in the fall of 1945, Sr. Mary entered St. Joseph’s Novitiate in Framingham. While at St. Joseph’s, Sr. Mary enrolled in nearby Regis College where she earned her degree in education. Therefore, upon graduation and the expressing of her final vows, Sr. Mary began a 30 + year career teaching in 7 schools in the Arch Diocese of Boston.

One day while visiting, Sr. Mary stated, “Michael, I never realized the impact St. Joseph would have on my life. While in high school, I met this young man, Joseph, (Joe) who introduced me to his aunt who convinced me to join the Sisters of St. Joseph and I entered St Joseph’s Novitiate. Upon expressing my final vows, I began teaching in seven schools, two of which were St. Joseph’s. After more than 30 years teaching I decided to change careers and moved into health care at Bethany in Framingham and lived next door at… St. Joseph’s Hall.”

One day I asked Sr. Mary if she remembers how many women entered the Convent the same year she did. Without hesitation, she answered… 64. In full disclosure, one woman left the next morning. Evidently, it was not quite the evening she had planned!

Then I stated, “I would think the number of women entering the Convent today would be a small percentage of that 64.”

Sr. Mary replied, “Yes, Michael, today’s women have found other ways to do God’s work.”

I found that reply enlightened, compassionate and loving.

Sr. Mary Mills, thank you for being.

 

Given by her nephew Michael Mills, May 22, 2024