We gather today to celebrate one of our CSJ “Giants”, Sister Maureen McDermott – who for 73 years lived life fully in the service of God and the dear neighbor.
Born to Hugh and Alice McDermott – Maureen grew up in the Parish of St Teresa, attended Bishop McDonnell High School and entered the Congregation on this very day, February 4th during the blizzard of 1948.
Today’s reading from Proverbs, paraphrased by Maureen asks us to reflect on the “Qualities of a Good Woman”. These words, written centuries ago, capture Maureen’s life, persona and her sense of the holy.
“She has committed her heart to goodness and speaks words of justice and right. Her actions are graced with concern and insight and her choices depict love and compassion”
Maureen always saw the “bigger picture” and countless examples of her personal acts of kindness and compassion have been shared these past few days – and will be told for years to come. Maureen was supported in life by her deep friendship with Thomasine, her faithful companion on the journey. Thomasine, reflected on the depth of Maureen’s personal relationship with God recounting the many conversations she overheard between God and Maureen while driving to ministry at Bishop Kearny. Enlivened by their shared prayer and community life – Maureen went forth, with a twinkle in her eye that was the hallmark of her infectious joy! We were indeed blessed that she walked among us
Uniquely – Maureen is eulogized today –by her own words– words arising from the heart of a woman who had a clarity of vision that each day gave voice to her joyful commitment as a Sister of St. Joseph.
At the time of Maureen’s Golden Jubilee in 1998 – she was asked to complete a form from the Community highlighting her 50 years as a Sister – and of course – she was only given a half a piece of paper that had to be promptly returned to Sister Frances Hagan. And so,
In her own words – Maureen is with us today as she reflected on her life’s journey…
“The Ministry of Education, most particularly on the Elementary Level, has filled and enriched the greater part of my Religious Life. My assignments provided an interesting diversity – ranging in the early years at St. Agnes Seminary to St. Ambrose on DeKalb – to St. Frances de Chantal in Wantagh. One year in Bishop McDonnell High School, when the 5 Congregations there were reacting to the Vatican Council – proved to be a truly important transformative element. It made me realize even more – how much I loved being a Sister of St. Joseph – and how proud I was of our approach to those years of change. Being Principal in St. Augustine’s and Immaculate Conception Schools – heightened the challenges and broadened my horizons. “Congregational Government” time followed – and I spent wonderfully happy and fulfilling years as a Regional Superior – and then as part of the General Council. Elementary Education beckoned again and I was Principal of Resurrection School for 8 great years. Presently I am an Assistant Principal in Bishop Kearney H.S. – enjoying the opportunity to work with a very dedicated group of professionals – as we attempt to make the Charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph a living reality for ourselves – and for our students.
The challenges, opportunities, friendships and myriad joys that I have experienced in ministry have added deep and vibrant colors to the canvas of my life. I will always be grateful for each and every one of them.”
The other half of the paper given to Maureen at the time of her Golden Jubilee asked for a “reflection” on what it meant to be a Sister of St. Joseph. Maureen wrote:
Being a Sister of St. Joseph of Brentwood has provided a framework for my life, support for my efforts and the direction for the use of my gifts. I has not only been the backdrop for ministry and community but also – in countless ways – challenging me towards “always the more” “always the more”. My attempts to live a life centered in Jesus and to be an effective witness of the Good News have been enlivened through the education, updating and renewal experiences available to me as a Sister of St. Joseph. In an everyday sense, my Congregational “Companions on the Journey” – often provide life, love and laughter which inspire my hope and confidence.
Being a Sister of St. Joseph is a precious gift – for which I will always be grateful. I thank a Loving God, a generous family and such faithful friends – for making these 50 years in the Congregation – all that they have been!
Maureen continued to live 23 full and vibrant years in that same spirit. Her simple yet profound closing reflection brings us into the heart of God with wisdom and gratitude. And I quote,
“Years ago, I remember reading that each day of religious life that is well-lived is as great a miracle as Peter walking on water – and, it is as dependent on faith as was Peter for his venture. In no way do I mean to say that a good religious life is almost impossible – rather – that much faith and dependence upon God are needed if one is to live a life recognizing and respecting each individual, building and supporting the community and rendering service where it is most needed. If I can come to the end of each day – and know that I have loved God in those I’ve met, in the community I claim – and in the service I’ve given – then I agree that I’ve lived a grace-filled miracle that day.”
Maureen, today your family, friends and community proclaim that you have indeed lived a grace-filled life and we thank you for performing countless miracles along your journey as a Sister of St Joseph!
Sister Maureen McDermott, CSJ died on January 27, 2021 in the 73rd year of her religious life.