In today’s liturgy, St. Paul reminds all of us to “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you are called to peace.” This is why we are all here together today, to witness to the peace that a life clothed in compassion, kindness, humility, and patience can bring to all who are touched by that life.
Catherine was given life by her parents Anne and Peter and grew up in St. Patrick’s Parish in Queens But in reality, Catherine was a Brooklyn girl, attending Bishop McDonnell High School and entering the congregation after graduation. She earned a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in History from St. John’s University. After teaching elementary school at St. Michael’s in Brooklyn, Catherine spent seven years in Academia San Jorge in Puerto Rico.
True to being a Brooklyn girl, Catherine was a beloved teacher at St. Joseph High School for twenty two years and Bishop Kearney High School for sixteen years. She was beloved because of her life clothed in that compassion, kindness and humility described by St. Paul. Those same virtues permeated Catherine’s life in community. She shared community with Eileen and Margaret for over forty years and together they were involved in all of our congregational meetings and events as well as hosting many warm and enjoyable gatherings in their home. That same bond brought them together to Stella Maris to be part of the welcoming and caring community there. They lived the common life where each person was loved and respected with her unique gifts and certainly each one of them was unique.
Catherine’s warm smile revealed her care for all and hinted at her wry wit that was often expressed with just a few words. Her love of her family was deep and a sustaining force in her life. Perhaps a unique sign of the strong bond with her family is that Catherine died on the same date as her sister Ellen, nine years ago. She loved the trips to California and the shared celebrations and events in the lives of each of her nieces and nephews as well as their children who benefitted from Catherine’s kindness and wit as well. I heard yesterday about her teasing them and her quote that if you tease someone it is because you love them. Catherine could always be herself enjoying the Sunday Times Crossword Puzzle and making comments that would certainly have gotten a reaction from Eileen and everyone else.
Catherine’s love flowed from her trust in her loving God even in times of loss and diminishment. So yes, many knew Catherine’s compassion, kindness and humility and it is that same love that binds them all together in perfect unity. Just as God has loved Catherine, God loves all of us here today and tells us to remain in that love so that in spite of our sadness and grief our joy will be complete knowing Catherine enjoys eternal peace.
Sister Catherine Mary O’Leary, CSJ died on September 1, 2018 in the 72nd year of her religious life.