Sister Mary T. Cahill, CSJ 
(Sister St. Timothy)

We Remember her
In the opening of the buds and in the 
rebirth of spring.

February 25, 1929 – April 6, 2024

In the 77th year of her Religious Life. 
Entered:  September 8, 1947

Mary Cahill, the oldest of Timothy and Mary Cahill’s five children, entered the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1947 and was given the name Sister St. Timothy.

In one of her writings, Mary expressed her life with a quote from St. Luke. 

“The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me to proclaim the Lords year of favor?”   As all of us who knew her, we observed Sister Mary Cahill lived these words during her 77 years as a Sister of St. Joseph.

Little did she know how serving God who dwells in mystery would call her!

Mary spent her early years as a teacher in Allston and Rockland.

In 1965 the Congregation began a new mission in Peru. Mary volunteered with other sisters and was selected as one of the original four sisters to travel to Peru to learn the Spanish language. Sister Mary became the principal at a school in San Ricardo, Peru. This was a destination for ministry that was foreign and unique in culture for a Boston CSJ! Mary resided and served in Peru for twelve years. During those years, she and the four sisters educated and supervised the children and adults, stimulating them to embrace education to enable new ways of living to lead them toward a richer, fuller life.

Mary was blessed to be supported at San Ricardo School by two companioning Sisters of St. Joseph, Carlotta Gilarde, CSJ, and Sister Nancy Braceland, CSJ. Other sisters arrived in Peru during the following years. Together they brought the skills, CSJ Charism, and values to the school and parish.

Upon her return to Boston in the 1980s Mary felt the desire to continue her service to marginalized people. Not only had there been a need in San Ricardo, but Mary also saw the need in Boston. With that in mind, Mary applied and was welcomed to the staff at St. Mary of the Angels Parish in Roxbury. While at the parish, Mary took additional courses in Spanish to communicate better with the people to serve their needs and the parish. She was accompanied during her sixteen years of ministry at Sister Mary’s in Roxbury with Sister Jean Mulloy, CSJ and Sister Catherine McGrath, SC. At its conclusion, Sister Mary sought for more! She was not retiring!

Believing she had the energy to continue service, Mary connected with Sister Kathy Green, who was the Director of Pine Street Inn. After some time as a volunteer, Mary was hired to be the Relief Counselor to the women residents at the Inn.

Sister Mary Cahill was a determined woman who followed her instincts.

She pursued knowledge from the daily newspaper, current books, and magazines, and kept updated on church and world issues. Mary was also an affectionate admirer of Paul Farmer and devoured his writings and admired his work.

Mary planned her funeral and chose the readings and music for her funeral Mass.

I believe these readings speak to us of Sister Mary Cahill and give us a message.

Book of Ecclesiastes: A season for every purpose under heaven

Letter to Corinthians: Faith, Hope, Love- the greatest of these is Love.

Gospel – St Matthew: Blessed are those who work for peace, the kingdom is theirs.

In a letter to a former President of the Congregation, Sister A. Catherine Murphy, Mary wrote of her deep appreciation to the Congregation for her vocation and the privileges she had been given as a member of the Congregation. She expressed thanks for her family for respecting her decision to answer God’s call to be of service in Peru and other inner-city locations. She rejoiced when she returned to Boston because she could be near her siblings and their families, the Sisters in the Congregation, and her friends. In her later years as a resident of Bethany, Mary was grateful to be a resident there, as she welcomed her sister Ann, and was delighted she could daily visit and support Ann in her illness.

In all the years of her life, it seemed Sister Mary Cahill – Sister St. Timothy, espoused the words of the Prophet, Micah, to act justly, to love tenderly, to walk humbly with “her” God.

We the Sisters of St. Joseph are grateful for the presence of Sister Mary Cahill and her witness of risking, zeal, and reaching beyond the ordinary.  May she rest in the peace of her loving God.

Given by Sister Gail Donahue, CSJ, April 12, 2024

Remembrance Given by Sean Cahill, Nephew of Sr. Mary Cahill.

It is a great honor to have been asked by my Uncle Jack, Aunt Ginny, and Cousin Tricia to say a few words about our beloved Aunt Mary, Sister Mary Timothy Cahill.

Aunt Mary was a wonderful aunt to us throughout our lives. Whenever she would come home from Lima, Peru, Aunt Mary would bring us all presents — colorful hats and mittens, toy llamas, hand drums, metal plates with indigenous figures on them, and blankets. I still sleep under a beautiful warm alpaca blanket that she gave us. She never forgot us.

I used to love holidays when Aunt Mary, Aunt Ann, and Cousin Mary from Ireland would come to visit. It was always so much fun to have them in our home. We — her nieces and nephews — grew up with Aunt Mary. We spent time at Saint Mary of the Angels Church, at Our Lady of Lourdes Convent, and in church halls throughout the archdiocese. My cousin Kathleen attended Mass at Saint Mary of the Angels for many years. We did the Walk for Hunger with Aunt Mary. After our father Bill Cahill died, Aunt Mary came and stayed with us for a while to help my mother take care of six boys. She and Nana Cahill also went to Florida with us after our father died to take our minds off this loss.

Aunt Mary and Aunt Ann, who was also a Sister of Saint Joseph, helped us feel a special connection to the church. This sometimes played out in interesting ways. When my cousin Eileen entered seventh grade, she and a group of girls started walking to junior high school together. Because they were seventh graders, they thought they had better start smoking cigarettes before school. So every morning for a week, they cut behind Cardinal Spellman High School, and smoked there before they proceeded to the junior high school. The Sisters of Saint Joseph taught at Cardinal Spellman, and there was a convent next to the high school. On Friday at the end of that first week of seventh grade, when Eileen arrived home, her father confronted her. “So you’re smoking now?” Uncle Bob Cahill asked Eileen to her astonishment. “You go behind Cardinal Spellman with the other girls and smoke.” The nun network had somehow gotten word to Eileen’s father! Aunt Mary was in Peru, and we think Aunt Ann had left the order by this time, but somehow the sisters had gotten word to Uncle Bob, an act that saved Eileen from a lifetime of smoking. You have heard the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child?” In Brockton where Eileen grew up, it took a religious community.

Aunt Mary was an avid reader and a citizen of the world. She loved speaking Spanish. In fact, last week when she arrived at the hospital, amidst the chaos, she spoke Spanish to another family in the Emergency Room. I remember when I was a teenager I read in the paper about bad things happening in Latin America, such as the murder of Archbishop Romero in El Salvador while he said Mass. Aunt Mary followed events there too, having just moved home from Peru. She always had thoughtful things to say.

I remember being worried about our country’s reliance on nuclear weapons, the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction, and talking to Aunt Mary about this. She also was concerned. In fall 1981 as a freshman in college, I went to New York and joined a small protest at the UN in support of nuclear arms control, maybe 500 people. In June 1982, Aunt Mary organized a busload of people from Saint Mary of the Angels Church in Egleston Square. We slept on the floor of a gym at Iona College in New Rochelle. I met so many wonderful people from her church, including Father Jack Roussin, and Father Perard from Haiti. Thanks to the hard work and vision of people like Aunt Mary, there were a million people at the nuclear weapons protest in June 1982, a huge improvement from a few months earlier.

When I was in graduate school, I studied liberation theology. Aunt Mary lived this every day of her life. Liberation theology talks about a preferential option for the poor. Aunt Mary chose to share her beautiful self with poor people, with the marginalized, with immigrants, and with women struggling with substance use and homelessness. Whether in Lima, in Roxbury, or at the Pine Street Inn, Aunt Mary educated, ministered to people’s spiritual needs, and helped so many people live to their full potential. She helped young women from Lima like Pilar Picon attend Regis College. She lived anti-racism before that was a term. She led by quiet example. She was not preachy about it, but she valued every human equally. Saint Mary of the Angels was one of the first parishes in Boston to allow girls to be altar servers. They did not ask permission. They just did it.

Aunt Mary touched so many lives through her compassion, and her commitment to justice had big ripple effects. Father Jack Roussin went to work in Peru in part due to conversations with Sister Mary. There he contracted drug-resistant tuberculosis and eventually died from this disease. This led Father Jack’s and Aunt Mary’s friend, Dr. Paul Farmer, who had lived in the parish house at Saint Mary of the Angels when in medical school, to travel to Peru and explore the causes of deadly diseases like the one that took the life of Father Jack. Aunt Mary traveled to Haiti with Paul Farmer. So much of the work Paul’s organization, Partners in Health, does around the world was inspired by Aunt Mary. Paul and Ophelia Dahl, another founder of Partners in Health, both told my brother Ed that Sister Mary was their first social justice teacher. One of my favorite memories was when I took Aunt Mary to a Partners in Health event at Rowes Wharf Hotel about 10 years ago. The people there were so happy to see her. Many clearly adored her, as did we.

Aunt Mary knew who she was, and stood her ground. Once about 10 years ago she went to visit someone in the hospital and parked in a clergy parking spot. Someone saw her and felt compelled to tell our 85-year-old Sister of Saint Joseph aunt, “Oh, those are for clergy.” Aunt Mary answered, “I am clergy,” and continued into the hospital.

When Aunt Mary retired, she went to work at the Pine Street Inn. She did not want the women there to know she was a nun because she thought they would not be willing to confide in her, and she wanted to help them.

Another great memory I have is the Sisters of Saint Joseph/Fontbonne phone bank for the Affordable Care Act. That legislation appeared dead, but the women religious did not give up. They intensely educated Congressman Stephen Lynch, who wanted better labor protections in the legislation. I do not think Congressman Lynch has fully recovered from that experience.

Aunt Mary was funny. When Nana Cahill went to the hospital to give birth to her son Jack Cahill, Mary told the teacher at school that her mother had gone away on a ski weekend. When Uncle Jack was an infant, Aunt Mary was watching him once and he rolled off the bed into a suitcase.

Aunt Mary’s niece Eileen had just given birth to her second son, Jack. It was not an easy delivery. The next day visiting hours started at 2pm in the afternoon, but that morning Aunt Mary and Aunt Ann walked into Eileen’s hospital room. “How did you get in?” Eileen asked. “We told them we were the grandmothers,” Aunt Mary answered.

Aunt Mary’s devotion to her sister Ann has been remarkable to witness. Aunt Ann, if you are watching this, we love you too very much. Last Thursday, when Aunt Mary was very sick but still at Bethany Health Care Center, the care coordinator brought Aunt Ann up to Aunt Mary’s room. They sat there quietly together, holding hands, feeling the love, and perhaps Aunt Mary was saying goodbye.

Thank you Aunt Mary, for being such a wonderful aunt, sister, sister-in-law, great aunt and great-great aunt to us, your family members. Your love for us all was evident in every interaction we were blessed to have with you. We love you very much, and we will cherish our memories with you forever. Now you are our Saint Mary of the Angels, watching over us.