Sister Mary Geraghty, CSJ
We celebrate the life of our beloved Sister Mary Geraghty formerly Sister Francis Martin, a Sister of St. Joseph for 74 faithful and grace-filled years. In Mary’s own words, written at the time of her 25th Jubilee she stated:
“My journey as a Sister of St. Joseph has been energizing as well as challenging. Aware of the ‘hand of God’ in my life I am able to live each day to the full ~ minute by minute, knowing that God has and will always answer my “Yes” with the courage and strength I will need for whatever lies ahead.”
For the next almost 50 years Mary lived those words with fidelity and joy in the service of God’s people.
Born to Irish immigrants, Martin and Alice Geraghty, Mary’s early years were nurtured by her wonderful and cherished Geraghty family and the vibrant parish life in St. Francis Xavier Parish, Brooklyn. Mary’s skilled reputation of doing Irish dancing “on the radio” set her apart as a family and neighborhood star.
After graduating from St. Joseph High School, Mary entered the community and later earned degrees from St. John’s University, Hunter College and the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health.
Mary often said that her many years as an elementary school teacher shaped her understanding of human dynamics and the innate goodness of people that led her into many fruitful and happy years of Ministry in the Cursillo, Campus Ministry, Parish Outreach and service to the Congregation as a Regional Superior.
Mary treasured her life in community and after her 39 graced years as part of the St. Bernard Parish Community she moved to Sacred Heart Convent in Hempstead. There Mary often referred to herself as “God’s brat.” Her ability to have mischievous fun and look at the bright side of life was coupled with her daily focus on prayer and reflection. Christine Maher and the sisters and staff at Sacred Heart lovingly recalled Mary’s wholehearted participation in Friday afternoon concerts. With her kazoo in hand and a twinkle in her eyes, Mary relished her favorite Irish tunes as her characteristic, whimsical smile lit up the room.
Mary’s need to be perfectly coiffed was beyond compare ~ her ability to put an outfit together with matching earrings was done with great care, and always with a splash of Estee Lauder!
Mary’s cell phone message reflected her life of kindness, care and gratitude. She reminded the caller of God’s unconditional love and I quote; “God loves you just the way you are ~ not the way you want to be ~ relax, enjoy life, put up your feet.”
And with those poignant words of advice, I now ask Sister Mary Ann Ambrose to share a personal reflection.
Sister Teresa Fitzgerald, CSJ
Mary Geraghty – a woman of great faith and great love.
Mary treasured her heritage, Irish Strong! Her Family and the Community of the Sisters of St. Joseph.
o quote Rev. Michael Himes, theologian at Boston College who in this very chapel in July 1986 stated, “We come from community – to community!” I dare say Mary Geraghty and the Geraghty Family are a beautiful sign to this day of that reality. There are the nightly calls with Alice and Marty. Jimmy’s calls on Sunday afternoon. Their care, love and concern for each other began in the home that Martin and Alice Geraghty created in Brooklyn so many years ago. How very proud they must be of their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Mary beamed when she spoke of her siblings and two generations of nieces and nephews. We come from community – to community.
September 8, 1948, Mary entered the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Being a Sister of St. Joseph meant everything to Mary. Whatever she was asked to do Mary did; it was for the community. Each day of the 2016 Chapter, Mary would drive to Brentwood from Levittown to be there. Each day she would say, if I am breathing, I will be here. And that she was!
Mary took community life seriously. Cooking – a meal would be prepared with extra touches – her famous twice baked potato and the delicious Rum Cake. I do have the recipe if anyone is interested. Perhaps one could say St. Bernard’s in Levittown was unique in Mary’s life, having lived in that convent for 39 years. Those sisters shared many ups and downs (joys and sorrows) with Mary. The birth of nieces and nephews, the death of her parents. It was in St. Bernard’s, the Geraghty Clan would gather for Thanksgiving. Mary loved preparing the meal and the laughter that would be part of the day. Mary became involved with the Consolation Ministry and Hospitality Committee. She was very excited to form the St. Joseph Guild (her hospitality weekend group). She immediately struck a deal with Panera Bread for fresh bagels, spreads, and juices to be delivered. Not to mention prayer cards and ‘gimmicks for God to be put on the table. Mary continued this until 2019 when she moved to Sacred Heart. We come from community – to community.
Mary also created community for others to come to – to be loved and I dare say be challenged. St. Joseph’s High School was a place where lifelong friendships were formed with some of the young women who graduated. Mary was all about relationship. If she called you friend, she meant it and lived it. You could count on her. Ro Pavlick shared how S. Mary had gone from teacher; to friend; to family. There would always be a group of St. Joseph’s girls at the Annual Spring Luncheon in Brentwood sitting with Mary.
Mary Geraghty so enjoyed her time at the St. Paul’s Center with the Cursillo Movement. Mary was the first woman to be named Spiritual Director. A distinction few knew – I learned it when I emptied a box that was under her bed. Awards were not important to Mary – people were. One of her many joys was when the women from the various Cursillo groups would call inviting her to give a talk or join the group for lunch. When COVID changed our lives, Mary was doing ZOOM Presentations for the women.
Then of course, was the standard Friday morning gathering – Weight Watchers with the women. Mary earned lifelong member status but she also made friends that would continue to connect with her calling to see how she was and if she needed a ride. We come from community to community – and sometimes we invite others to become community. Mary did just that!
Many if not all who knew Mary immediately see a butterfly when you think of her. It was her trademark. A butterfly pin, a butterfly sticker on a card or even a butterfly stamp. That was Mary. So much so that at one of her celebrations there was even a butterfly release. Perhaps it was the transition to butterfly from caterpillar that attracted Mary. She had many transitions. Mary took risks often stepping out first to give it a try. Looking through pictures with Mary there was the house picture with all the sisters in their modified habit and Mary in her blue polka dot dress. Or the year she spent in an apartment with sisters on Front Street to be closer to the people.
Mary’s time as Regional Superior was full of excitement as she and Eileen Taylor would take road trips to Colorado or Florida when needing to visit a sister at a distance. Oh, how the two of them would laugh describing the adventure. Our very own Thelma and Louise!
After that wild ride Mary was hired to work at Thompson Solution Center in Connecticut in the clerical and event planning department. You know that was right up Mary’s alley. She loved it. 2000-2005. One of her responsibilities was following up on executives who failed to respond to events. One executive called the CEO of Thompson Solution and asked, “Who is Mary Geraghty?” He was coming to the event just to meet her. His description of his experience was perfect! He said, “You know – she is a Velvet Hammer!” Mary had a way of driving her point home.
She spoke her truth to you – of course the truth was followed by a twinkle of the eye and a sly smile and sometimes the raising of the eyebrow, often accompanied by her keen Irish wit.
I know – we often had hours long conversations in her favorite place – Millers Ale House – and every meal ended with a hot fudge sundae. The server would be told – I’ll have an Arnold Palmer and end with a hot fudge sundae. The actual dinner was incidental. But oh, how we laughed. How lucky was I to be called her friend and she mine!
This final transition was challenging for Mary, but I believe she is at peace in the arms of the God who loved her into being.
Finally, Rob Pavlick, Mary’s Godson, shared how sometimes he would call her phone just to hear her voice message. Always one to be encouraging, Mary always had an upbeat message to remind you to be good to yourself. Perhaps some have never heard her message. I invite all to hear it and remember it – it’s Mary’s wish for each of us.
This is S. Mary. I’m sorry that I’m not here at the moment to answer your phone, but if you would leave your name, phone number and a brief message, I will be delighted to get back to you. With all this chaos that we have experienced the past couple of months just remember God loves you through it all. He loves you just the way you are not the way you want to be. Take some time today to just think how much you are loved. Take a few minutes today and put your feet up and just say thank you. Have a wonderful day! God’s Peace.
Yes Mary! Well done. Today we celebrate your life with us now and how you will be with us.
Mary Geraghty, I invite you and all the Saints of God in glory, be with us, rejoice with us, sing praise with us, and pray with us now.
Maryann Ambrose, CSJ
Sister Mary Geraghty, CSJ, the former Sister Francis Martin, died on January 31, 2022, in the 74th year of her religious life.