Sister Mary McConnell, CSJ

Mary, daughter of Charles and of Florence, sister of Anita, Jim and Roger, had a burning desire to be a Sister of St. Joseph and she served in varied ways – math teacher, counselor, professor, therapist and spiritual director.  She grew as theology developed, as you can see in her choice of an eco-friendly basket.  But Mary would not want us to spend a lot of time in focusing on what she did. Instead, Sister Maryann Cashin is now going to read a compilation of reflections gleaned from the Sisters by Elizabeth Meehan, Pastoral Care director here at the convent.
Phyllis Esposito, CSJ

As I prayed about writing this reflection, I was reminded of some phrases from the song “Maria” in The Sound of Music –

How do you catch a cloud and pin it down
How do you keep a wave upon the sand
How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand

And I thought – yes, how do you capture the essence of S. Mary McConnell?  I have only known S. Mary a mere three years.  My prayer inspired me to reach out to the Sisters who have shared life and ministry with Mary to seek their thoughts.  And so, I offer today’s reflection on behalf of all the Sisters of St. Joseph Convent.

The majority of Sisters with whom I spoke said that among Mary’s favorite expressions were “being in the heart of God”, “knowing that we are God’s beloved” and “St. Joseph Convent is the corridor to Heaven”.

Another Sister shared – “Mary is a woman who welcomes you into her heart with an enormous smile and an ear ready to listen”.

And from another Sister – “Mary is a gentle, quiet woman with a smile that says welcome.  Mary is guileless and pure of heart”.

There were a few Sisters who shared meaningful stories about S. Mary:

“When ministering at Sloan Kettering, Mary used to visit Sofie, a Jewish patient, although she wasn’t assigned to her.  One day Mary asked Sofie if she would like to have a Rabbi visit her.  Sofie said, “No Mary, you are God for me”.

“During a trip to Israel with S. Eileen Storey, Mary attended Mass in a stuffy cave with little air and a great deal of smoke from the candles.  After slipping down to the floor in a near faint, Mary was taken outside.  Another Sister left with Mary to care for her.  After a while, Eileen came outside and offered to take the Sister’s place so that she could return to Mass.  Mary heard this Sister say, “No thank you; this is Eucharist”.

And a few final memories –

“Before the renovation of St. Joseph Convent, Mary offered monthly spiritual presentations in the community room.  Mary used no script but spoke with great insight and inspiration.  Her basic aim was to enhance our conviction that we are God’s beloved”.

“When I was with Mary, I knew that I was walking on very holy ground”.

“Mary had a deep prayer life and a simplicity of life . . . she never needed anything and gave all her life treasures away.  Mary realized that community is the anchor that can help us through challenging times and so she was always present at many of the programs at the Convent”.

As I listened to all of these beautiful sentiments, I realized that the adaptation of Proverbs 31 best describes Our Mary –

She is a valiant woman; her roots are firmly planted.  The kingdom is within; her heart, treasure-filled.  She is a joyful woman for whom laughter is no stranger: a song to sing, a smile to give, a hand to clasp or embrace.  She is a strong woman whose heart and arms withstand the pressures and the worries that each day unfolds.  She is a patient woman waiting through storm and night for new life, new growth, rich harvest.  She is a loving woman ever giving and forgiving, ever caring and concerned.  She is a sharing woman who with arms outstretched gives her gifts and treasures to those both near and far.

Since Mary’s fall, we have seen her graciously accept her diminishment and her lack of independence.  She had a big smile for all of her visitors and was never too tired to welcome someone.  We have witnessed Mary slowly and gently preparing to meet the God she loved so much and served so well.

And so, dear Mary, as I bring this reflection to a close, I am reminded of how our visits would always end.  I would ask you – “So, Sister Mary, where is God in all of this?”

Today . . . I hear God’s voice speaking to you loud and clear –

Welcome home, my Beloved.
Elizabeth Meehan and the Sisters at St. Joseph Convent

Sister Mary McConnell, CSJ, the former Sister Mary Louis, died on August 3, 2022 in the 72nd year of her religious life.

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