Written on: November 10, 2016
Sister Anne and Sister Patricia Eileen McKeon share an uncommon dual bond: they are biological sisters and, as Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, sisters in community. Only a year apart in age, they grew up in a bustling household in Jackson Heights, New York, a house filled with lively siblings, frequent laughter and deep faith. “You kicked me out of my crib,” Sister Anne complains. “Well, you should have taken that up with Mom and Dad,” Sister Pat retorts.
The sisters attended Blessed Sacrament School, where they were taught by Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart. The influence of the Grey Nuns remained strong, despite high school education with another religious order. Sister Anne (Sister Joseph Marie) a scholarly girl, who was class president for all four years of high school, entered the community in 1951, immediately after graduation.
Sister Pat, more outgoing and mischievous than her sister, entered in 1954, after working in New York City for two years. “My father told my mother, ‘She’ll be back home in three weeks’,” laughs Sister Pat.
The McKeon sisters were educated as teachers and embarked on ministry paths that would wend through 50 years, through big cities and small towns and through elementary schools, high schools and parishes. Although they enjoyed all of the stops on their journeys as religious women, certain places stand out in their memories.
“I worked in Mahanoy City in Pennsylvania in coal country,” Sister Anne remembers. “I was missioned at St. Canicus Parish but I also did religious education in ‘the patches’ where the coal miners and their families lived. They had tough lives but they were really good, beautiful people.”
Sister Anne’s other fond ministry memories include Melrose Academy outside of Philadelphia, St. Leo in Corona, St. James in Depew, New York, Mother of Divine Providence in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania and, at one point, the elementary school of her childhood, Blessed Sacrament. She was also Director of Religious Education at St. Joan of Arc in Jackson Heights.
Sister Pat’s most endearing educational ministry memory is her stint as a teacher of religion at Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School in East Elmhurst, New York. “It was 17 years of joy,” she remembers. “The kids were great and there was never a dull moment working with them! At that age, they are filled with life and laughter.”
Her vocation path also took her to Holy Angels Academy and St. Rose of Lima in Buffalo, Cathedral of Christ the King School in Atlanta, Blessed Sacrament and St. Joan of Arc in Jackson Heights and St. Leo. Although the sisters ministered at some of the same parish schools, they were never missioned together at the same time.
Teaching was not the only assignment on the McKeon sisters’ ministry paths: God had other ideas. Sister Anne served as a Youth Minister and Pastoral Associate at Our Lady of Mercy in Whippany, New Jersey. Sister Pat was a Pastoral Minister at St. Mel in Flushing, New York and ran the first senior citizen center at Corpus Christi Parish in Woodside, New York.
The McKeon sisters moved to the Grey Nun Motherhouse when their days of formal ministry ended, and experienced yet another phase of ministry. Sister Anne volunteered as a leader in a scripture study group held at D’Youville Manor, which was an assisted living facility on the Grey Nuns’ Yardley, Pennsylvania campus.
“God uses us in many different ways over the course of our lifetimes,” she says. “I got to know these men and women. I visited with them; asked them how they’re feeling, payed attention to them. I tried to help them to see that their present life was still important and still meaningful and to see that God was still using them to touch the lives of others.”
Sister Pat still ministers to the elderly as well, visiting Grey Nuns who reside in a nursing facility because of their need for skilled care. “My ministry is to help these sisters feel connected to our community. I bring them information, news, funny stories, food treats and hopefully, laughter. And, most important, I listen to them.”
The sisters say their ministry lives have been interesting and rewarding—right up to the present–because of the diversity of people, places and assignments. “I entered religious life because I wanted to serve people and I’m still doing that,” Sister Anne says. Sister Pat agrees: “Ministry, to me, is both giving and receiving. The sisters I visit give me many, many gifts.”
The McKeons acknowledge that their double connection of biology and religious community has enriched and blessed their lives. “We are all really family, though,” Sister Anne observes. “No matter what the differences may be in our culture, our social status or our religious beliefs, as children of God, we are all family.” That being said, the sisters are off in different directions, to love and to minister to family.
In addition to the McKeons, the Connolly Sisters: Barbara and Pat are also living sisters who are Sisters in community.
Families who have had more than one daughter in the community are:
The Burkes- Sister Eleanor of the Sacred Heart and Sister Mary Aloysius
The Connollys- Sister Barbara and Sister Patricia
The Coonlys- Mother St. Edward and Sister St. Mary
The Cornells- Sister Mary Florence, Sister St. Augustine
The Doolings- Sister Margaret of the Sacred Heart and Sister Mary Teresa
The Egans- Sister James Maureen and Sister Marie Cecile
The Enrights- Sister Annunciata and Sister Mary Amadeus
The Griersons- Mother Mary Beatrice, Mother St. James, Sister St. Adele
The Griffins- Sister Margaret of Cortona, Sister Mary of the Cross, Sister Mary Veronica
The Hammersleys- Sister Mary Patricia and Sisters St. Robert
The Hewstons- Sister St. Dorothy and Sister St. Ruth
The Kennedys- Sister Agnes of the Sacred Heart and Sister Mary of the Rosary
The Maddens- Sister Mary Edna, Sister St. Miriam, Sister St. Christina, Sister St. Malo, Sister St. Ambrose
The McDermotts- Sister St. Rita and Sister St. Winifred
The McKennas- Sister Francis of Assisi, Sister Mary Martha
The McKeons- Sister Anne and Sister Patricia Eileen
The Morans- Sister Elizabeth Mary, Sister St. Genevieve
The Murphys- Sister Estelle Marie, Sister Irene and Sister Mary Alice
The Nolls- Sister St. Constance, Sister St. Raymond
The O’Haras- Sister Helen and Sister Mary Margaret
The O’Learys- Sister Veronica(died just prior to the foundation of the GNSH, but we’d like to think she would have joined her sister) and Mother Mary Augustine (first Superior General of the GNSH)
The Olivers- Sister Mary Evelyn, Sister Mary Rita
The Petits- Mother Mary Mastai, Sister Mary Evangeline
The Quigleys- Mother Mary Agnes, Mother Mary Ursula
The Shannons- Sister Ann Maureen, Sister John of the Sacred Heart, Sister Mary Annette (Their sister, Patricia entered the Grey Nuns of Ottawa but died in 1913 prior to the foundation of the GNSH).
The Stantons- Sister Joseph of the Cross and Sister Mary Catherine
The Welchs- Sister Rosella, Sister St. Charles Sister St. Mark
The Woods- Sister Mary Denis, Sister Mary Terrence, Sister Michael Marie
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