Written on: December 31, 2018
The following words of remembrance were delivered by Sister Barbara Schiavoni, GNSH at the Funeral Mass for Sr. St. Catherine on January 5, 2019.
Mary Theresa Curley entered the congregation on Sept. 8, 1937 at the age of 16. In her letter to Mother Mary of Good Counsel, Superior General, she said,
“It has long been my desire to give myself to God, and I hereby ask permission to enter.”
Thus began the love story that was to be woven over the next 80 years. And that love woven between Mary Theresa and her God grew and flourished, and enriched countless lives. Sister St. Catherine was a lifelong educator; her career spanned 51 years as teacher, principal and librarian.
Marilyn Balogh Taylor graduated from St. Joan of Arc school in Jackson Heights in 1956. Sister St. Catherine was her 7th grade teacher and prepared her for her Confirmation. Here are some of Marilyn’s memories:
“You always knew Sister St. Catherine cared about you. When she disciplined someone, she did it gently, with love. You didn’t want to ever disappoint her. She was a wonderful, incredible role model: as a woman, as a religious, as an educator. She lives her faith, she lived and exemplified God’s love and mercy. I stayed in touch with her over the years. We were friends. When I called her, I would say, ‘Hello, Trouble!’ it wasn’t to be disrespectful. I said it to hear that wonderful, little girl giggle she had. I will miss her and I am grateful that she was part of my life as a teacher, a role model, a friend and prayer partner.”
Sister St. Catherine especially loved teaching English and Geography. Once, anxious about teaching an all-male class, she told Sr. Donalda that she “hated boys.” She confessed, however, that by the end of the year, she loved them and she laughed at the memory.
Many have shared their impressions of Sister St. Catherine over the past week:
Sister “retired” to the Yardley Motherhouse in 1992. Not long after her arrival, she found she missed teaching. In her words, “I was lonesome and I couldn’t imagine myself spending the whole day on myself.” She began volunteering at Grey Nun Academy, assisting Eileen Bolton, the guidance counselor. Eileen said of her at that time:
“When Sister St. Catherine reports for duty, her greeting and her smile light up the day. She is a woman of many talents and many interests, a person who is interested in others and puts others at ease.”
Some years ago, Sister was asked her advice to younger sisters about remaining faithful to their vocation. She said,
“Stay faithful to prayer and relationship to God and others.”
Sister St. Catherine was true to her words throughout her life, taking personal prayer time in the Chapel each day and attending Daily Mass. Here at Magnificat, Mass is at 6:45 am, at which time she was up and dressed, ready for her day.
Prayer was the center of her life. She made her home in God, and God’s love shone through her. Sister St. Catherine lived a spirituality that embodies Christ for others, a true daughter of St. Marguerite D’Youville.
You may know of St. Catherine’s love of the deer on the hill at Yardley. For most of her years at the Motherhouse, she had a room overlooking the hill because she loved to watch the deer. When she needed to move closer to the elevator, she graciously gave up her deer. She understood, but it was a letting go. I think we can safely conjecture that the deer, too, were a part of her spiritual life.
Sister St. Catherine accepted the challenge of relocation, at age 95, with grace and dignity. She and the five other Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart who settled at Magnificat were warmly welcomed and soon found home and community, thanks to the graciousness of the Redeemer Sisters, their Associates and Staff members. St. Catherine appreciated the prayerfulness of the house and the social aspects as well, enjoying meals and activities. She quickly made friends, was content with her surroundings, and was very grateful for her home here.
She was a quiet soul but she knew what was going on. She enjoyed Bingo, the TV news after lunch, and listening to Agnes play the piano. She spoke of the chickens, goats and cats at the little farm outside her window with a sense of wonder. I’ve been told that Sister enjoyed the baby lamb that Sr. Anna Dura, CSR brought up, and also the miniature pony that once paid a visit.
Sister St. Catherine remained active in Grey Nun life. She celebrated her 80th Jubilee in 2017, had the most guests of any of the sisters celebrating – most of you (family) were there – and was the last to leave. She was interested in all that was going on in the congregation. When the new Leadership group was installed last July, she asked about the celebration and said she was thinking of the community and praying for our new leaders.
Sister St. Catherine taught me that you are never too old to make a new friend. She welcomed me into her room – and her heart – when I arrived in Philly six months ago. I will treasure our conversations.
Sister entered Hospice care in mid-November, just before Advent. For Sister St. Catherine and all who loved her, “waiting” during this Advent took on a new meaning. We knew that she was ready. We knew this from her sense of peace, from the witness of her life and her own words. A few weeks ago she told me
“I’m ready, but he must not be ready for me.”
During those final weeks, St. Catherine waited patiently for the Lord, surrounded by her loving family, her Grey Nun Sisters, Redeemer Sisters, Staff members and friends. Your presence gave her peace and comfort and eased her journey home.
I must thank the staff here at Magnificat: You were outstanding in your care and affection for St. Catherine and we are most grateful.
Thank you, Sister St. Catherine for sharing your love story with each of us.
I will close with Sister’s words on the occasion of her 80th Jubilee:
“In my 80 years as a Grey Nun, I look back with joy and happiness on the many places that I was missioned. As a teacher, I knew I had an important mission in educating young children to grow to be responsible adults. I found fulfillment in knowing that I was doing the work of Marguerite d’Youville. I have also been able to rejoice in the way Divine Providence has brought me this far. I never expected to move to a new home in these later years. I am appreciative of the many sisters who have been with me on this journey. I always have prayed that the community of Grey Nuns would prevail, and we have, and we will always be daughters of Marguerite d’Youville.”
With gratitude to sisters Cathy Bleiler, Ceil Cosgrove and Eileen White; and to Eileen Dickerson and Marilyn Balogh Taylor for assistance with this reflection.
Click here for the poem, Life’s Weaving read at Sister’s funeral.
Sister St. Catherine Curley, GNSH, died December 28, 2018 in the 81st year of her religious life. This lifelong educator served in Pennsylvania for fifteen years. She taught at St. Canicus, Mahanoy City, Our Lady of the Assumption, Strafford and St. Norbert’s, Paoli. She was principal at Mother of Divine Providence in King of Prussia and at Sts. Peter and Paul in Lehighton. She also served in Jackson Heights, NY for thirty-five years. In 1992 ill health led to her retirement to the Motherhouse in Yardley, PA. After recovery, and unable to leave behind her love for the school community, she was welcomed as an office assistant and later a volunteer at Grey Nun Academy for more than 10 years. Sister St. Catherine received her BS in Elementary Education from D’Youville College, Buffalo, NY and an MS in Elementary Education from Queens College, NY.
Mary Theresa Curley was born January 1, 1921 in Mahanoy City, PA and entered the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart in 1937. She is predeceased by her parents, five sisters and one brother. In addition to her religious family she is survived by several nieces and nephews. A viewing will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, January 5, 2019 in the Redeemer Sisters Chapel, 521 Moredon Road, Huntingdon Valley, PA; her funeral mass will follow at 10:30 a.m. Burial in Resurrection Cemetery, Bensalem, PA. Memorial donations in Sister’s memory may be made online to the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, or by mail at the following address:14500 Bustleton Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19116.