We gather on this glorious morning to celebrate the life of Sister Miriam Anthilia Whitwell.
70 Years ago Lillian Whitwell, the only child of Percy and Lillian Whitwell responded with a wholehearted YES to God’s call to become a Sister of St. Joseph. She lived that YES with fidelity, love and service to God’s people.
While teaching elementary school Anthilia earned her BA from St. Joseph College and her MA from Brooklyn College – no small feat, but one that was motivated by her love of children and the selfless reward of teaching. Over the course of her active ministry Anthilia taught in 14 different schools from Brooklyn to East Hampton.
For the past 26 years Anthilia called Sacred Heart Convent in Hempstead her home and it was there that she was better known as Tilly. We’re grateful to Christine Maher, Sacred Heart’s Administrator and the sisters for bringing the real TILLY to our minds and hearts today.
Tilly was a serious Bingo savant – she loved the game and was a guaranteed fixture at the Bingo table with 3 or 4 cards in play simultaneously. Her winnings were treasured boxes of tissues, stuffed animals and decorations that proudly adorned her room – all with a story.
Tilly always participated wholeheartedly – front line and center, in any musical event – Lillie’s ukulele concerts and Christine’s Friday afternoon sing-alongs brought forth Tilly’s full throated voice – on key or not. Edelweiss from the Sound of Music was her favorite.
Tilly loved playing “The Bells” with the other sisters when Kate Braet hosted that program at Sacred Heart. The Bells were so important to Tilly that all appointments were scheduled to ensure her availability for the Bells – she loved to “ring dem bells.”
Tilly’s smile was saved for very special occasions. It would light up the room at birthday celebrations where she’d be in the thick of it singing and clapping while eying some much loved dessert. She was truly a party girl.
As an avid reader Tilly relished murder mysteries and suspense novels but never gave away the endings when asked!
During Covid Tilly was an ardent advocate for the Sisters and Staff at the house. She’d often be heard saying “We will be OK – we will get through this.” Nurses would marvel at how patient and kind she was towards them while on Covid quarantine protocols. The pandemic brought out the best in her.
This September Tilly would have celebrated her 70th Jubilee as a Sister of St. Joseph. She often spoke proudly of that milestone and reflected gratefully on God’s Divine Providence and goodness that filled her life.
And so Tilly, this one’s for you –BELLS –
May you be at peace with our gracious God and may you continue to celebrate in song and jubilation.
Sister Miriam Anthilia Whitwell, CSJ died on May 14, 2021 in the 70th year of her religious life.