Catholic Free Press

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  • Oct
  • 30

Sister Catherine Connolly and Sister Mary O’Leary

Posted By October 30, 2014 | 8:49 pm | Lead Story #3

Sister Catherine T. Connolly, SND

By William T. Clew

Sister Catherine T. Connolly, SND, said she knew she wanted to be a religious sister beginning in the third grade.
She said she was inspired by the example of her teachers at St. Joseph’s Elementary School in Boston’s West End.
“We called it the best end,” she said.
“They were pretty neat,” she said of the Sisters who ran the school. “They appeared to be happy no matter what. I thought it was a pretty good way to live your life. It gave you something to think about.”
Sister Catherine was born July 2, 1935, in Boston. She had one brother and three sisters.
After St. Joseph’s, she attended Cardinal Cushing High School. She worked at John Hancock for a year, then, with the support of her parents, joined the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in 1955 in Waltham. She professed her final vows in 1957.
She earned a bachelor of arts degree in education from Emmanuel College in Boston.
Her first assignment was teaching the second grade at St. Mary’s Elementary School in Cambridge for a couple of years. After that she moved to Our Lady of the Assumption in East Boston, where she taught third and fourth grades.
She moved on to St. Joseph’s School in Somerville, then to St. Mary’s School in Lawrence. She taught the third and fourth grades at each school. She then had a new assignment, teaching mathematics in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades at the Academy of Notre Dame in Tyngsboro.
For the next 10 years, she said, she was out of the classroom. She was named principal of St. Mark’s School in the Dorchester section of Boston.
“It was the thrill of a lifetime,” she said. “It was wonderful. They were the best kids anywhere.”
There were more than 700 students in the school, she said, and they were “exceptional, and their parents were doubly so.”
When there was an occasional disciplinary problem, Sister Catherine said, the youngster would come into her office and she would have him or her call home to explain the reason for the trip to the principal’s office.
“If they came once, they never came back, except to visit,” Sister Catherine said.
After her stay in Dorchester, she moved on to Notre Dame Academy in Hingham for two years. There, she said, she was a jack of all trades.
“I picked up whatever needed to be done,” she said.
She was once more a principal, this time at St. Michael’s School in Hudson. After a year there, she moved out of the Archdiocese of Boston into the Diocese of Worcester and was named the superior of the convent at 555 Plantation St., which then served as a retirement and nursing facility for the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.
She saw many changes while she was superior. The community of sisters became smaller and some were moved to other facilities. At one point there was talk of having the Sisters of Mercy move from Barry Road to Notre Dame, she said.
Later, when Notre Dame was being renovated, the Sisters of Notre Dame moved for a while to Barry Road with the Sisters of Mercy.
“They were wonderful,” Sister Catherine said.
Sister Catherine also hosted the bishops, Vicar for Religious and other diocesan personnel at the Notre Dame convent after their offices in the Chancery flooded in March 1996. A sprinkler head in the attic of the Elm Street building had broken and water poured down all three floors. Some Chancery offices moved into three floors in the convent and others to the Father Connors Center of Immaculate Conception Church in Worcester for more than a year, until the building at 49 Elm St. was renovated. The Catholic Free Press occupied a basement wing of the convent wing until its present quarters at 51 Elm St. became available.
Sister Catherine retired two years ago and lives at Notre Dame du Lac. She said her philosophy is “live and let live and you can be happy. If you’re looking for trouble, you’ll find it.”

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Sister Mary F. O’Leary, SP

By William T. Clew

Sister Mary F. O’Leary, SP, is the only Sister of Providence still working at St. Vincent Hospital. When it started in 1893 as a 12-bed hospital, it was managed and staffed by the Sisters of Providence.
Sister Mary said she enjoys her job, even though it requires a lot of walking. With a smile, said she loves the patients, “even though I don’t have much patience of my own.”
“Even when I don’t want to come to work, the patients make me feel good,” she said.
Sister Mary was born in Worcester. She attended Blessed Sacrament Elementary School, graduated from St. PeterÕs High School and began studies at the St. Vincent Hospital School of Nursing, operated by the Sisters of Providence.
The Sisters impressed her, she said. They impressed her so much that she left the nursing school and joined the Order in Holyoke. She said she took her first vows in 1947 and her final vows in 1952.
Meanwhile, she resumed her nursing studies at Providence Hospital in Holyoke, graduating in 1949 as a registered nurse. She earned her diploma in radiation technology from the Mercy Hospital School of X-ray technology in Springfield, then earned an associate degree in radiological technology from Holyoke Community College.
From 1951 to 1956 she served as an X-ray technician at various hospitals staffed by the Sisters of Providence, including Mercy Hospital in Springfield and St. Vincent Hospital. She also was a nurse at the Sisters of Providence Mother House in Holyoke.
From 1965 to 1971 she supervised the X-ray department at Mercy Hospital. She then moved to Burbank Hospital in Fitchburg as chief technician for the X-ray department. She served there from 1971 to 1975.
In 1976 she came back to St. Vincent Hospital, this time as a nurse and patient advocate. Later she also took on the duties of sacristan, caring for the vessels and altar in the chapel.
Sister Mary earned a masters degree in theology and pastoral care at St. Mary of the Woods College in Indiana, where she was named to the National Women’s Honor Society. She also earned a master’s degree in psychology from Anna Maria College.
She moved into the hospital’s pastoral care department in 1986 and has been there ever since.
She said she is in her third St. Vincent Hospital. She started her studies in the hospital’s nursing school on Vernon Street, she said. She then worked at the hospital at the top of the hill at Heywood and Providence streets. And, when the hospital moved downtown to the Worcester Medical Center, so did Sister Mary.
Msgr. Peter R. Beaulieu, director of mission integration and pastoral care at the hospital, said Sister Mary is “technically retired” and now is a volunteer. She still shows up four days a week to visit patients and to prepare the altar in the hospital chapel for daily Mass, something she has been doing for 25 years. And the sign with her name and the title Chaplain still is on her office door.
Msgr. Beaulieu, noting her service in pastoral care, as a nurse and a radiologist, said she has “great faith and devotion and is a credit to the Sisters of Providence, who began the hospital 121 years ago.”