Mary M. Shea, CSJ

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

May 11, 1926 – December 18, 2019

The book of Isaiah gives us the first image of God as a shepherd. In this season of Advent, we often hear, sung in Handel’s Messiah, “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” The Good Shepherd was Mary’s favorite picture of her God. She chose the gospel reading from John, where Jesus identifies himself as the Good Shepherd, the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah.

Mary Marjorie Shea was born to James and Marjorie Shea, and with her brother, James was raised in Rockland. After her graduation from Rockland High School, Mary entered the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Her early ministries were as an elementary school teacher, serving in several schools over more than twenty-five years. Mary then took her skills and talents to other ministries, spending time in youth services both as supervisor and director of the Kennedy Center in Charlestown. Subsequently, Mary became involved in parish work in Roxbury, and ultimately in home-care services.

The Constitution of the Sisters of St. Joseph states that “We see relationship at the heart of mission, and thus we seek to become ever more united in the mind and heart of Christ Jesus and to foster growth in one another for the sake of the new creation.” Indeed, relationship was a key value in the life of Sister Mary Shea. She readily welcomed visitors. It was Mary’s delight to enjoy the company of her friends while viewing the ocean at Revere Beach, often while enjoying local cuisine. A little over a year ago, Mary celebrated her seventy-fifth anniversary as a Sister of St. Joseph. This anniversary was indeed a milestone for Mary, marked by a special day, which gave her great joy.

The aging process can be heartless, robbing us mortals of abilities that we have taken for granted for years. As Mary Shea aged, she lost her mobility, her sight, and her hearing. She continued to enjoy reading through audiobooks, maintaining her love of best-selling authors. The only thing age could not rob Mary was her sense of humor. The ability to see the lighthearted in the ordinariness of life characterized Mary’s outlook. She was ever ready with a quip that transformed what might have been stressful into an occasion for laughter. Who among us did not experience that dry wit of hers?

I also learned that Mary enjoyed the diversion of visiting Foxwoods. The recommendation was made that, in her honor, we should each buy a scratch ticket today. Who knows whether Mary can influence the outcome? She certainly would have had a good laugh at that!

Mary also had a serious side, which was reflected in the specific directions she gave for how this liturgy should be conducted. She was sure of herself, sure of her calling to be a Sister of St. Joseph and sure that her Good Shepherd would carry her in His arms to her eternal home.

Mary, as you were loved by many here during your life, may you now know the love of God, the God who loved you into being, who called you to religious life, and who welcomes you to a place of light, happiness, and peace.

Given by
Judith Costello, CSJ
December 23, 2019