Written on: September 3, 2019
We celebrated the life of Sr. Anne Mary McKeon on Saturday, September 8. The Liturgy was celebrated by our dear friend, Rev. Charles Noone. The following reflection on Sr. Anne’s life was given by Sr. Eileen White, GNSH.
Although Anne left us without giving us a chance to say goodbye, she was good enough to leave us a precious gift – by choosing ahead of time the readings and songs for her funeral Mass. They speak of her relationship with God and with all of those she loved and served.
“I have called you by your name; you are mine.”
Anne was born in Jackson Heights, New York. Her father and mother were both from New York City. She had two brothers, Bill and John Joseph, and two sisters, Sister Pat and Mary. In spite of being missioned in many different parts of the country, Anne never lost that golden New York accent.
Anne was 86 years of age. She heard God call her by name, again and again throughout her life, in good days and hard ones. She believed God had claimed her and she believed that she did not need to be afraid.
Anne entered the community in 1951. Tomorrow (September 8th) would be the 68th anniversary of her entrance. Sr. Anne always told her Sister Pat that she had given her youth to God; whereas Pat had given her youth to the world (since Pat waited until she was much older – 20- before entering!)
From Paul’s letter, we heard,
“I give thanks to my God each time I remember you and when I pray for you, I pray with joy.”
How many people she thanked God for in her lifetime! How many relatives, friends, Sisters, colleagues, students, parishioners also thanked God for her!
She taught mostly upper grades in Corona and Jackson Heights, Depew, NY, Mahanoy City, King of Prussia, and Melrose. While she was teaching students, she sometimes taught other teachers; the new ‘60s approach to teaching math, and the new Vatican Council II approach to religious training.
Anne was always eager to continue her education in scripture, in the documents of Vatican II, in social justice, and in spirituality. She took advantage of every workshop and class offered wherever she was missioned. She even made a cursillo retreat in the late ‘60s.
After many years as a junior high teacher, Anne began to work in parish ministry, specifically religious education and adult faith formation. She pursued a master’s in religious education at LaSalle University and then worked in Jackson Heights and in the diocese of Paterson, New Jersey. There are plaques in her bedroom from the Jackson Heights Lions and from Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Whippany, New Jersey.
When she left Assumption Parish in Morristown, NJ, they wrote this about her in the Church bulletin:
Sister has always had a most pleasant manner, has come to know many, many people by name, set up classes for the instruction of our CCD teachers, developed a curriculum, encouraged some of our parents to attend adult education classes at St. Elizabeth’s, researched resource materials for our teachers, built up a library and visual aids, and conducted study groups and prayer groups.
We can see that Anne didn’t sit around much! Anne kidded Pat frequently. She liked to remind her, for example, that Pat, born just a year after Anne, had put Anne out of her crib. She enjoyed laughter and most of us can still hear her big laugh and see her big smile. At Holy Redeemer Lafayette one of the Sisters dubbed her the Mayor of Lafayette because she was known for greeting every resident she passed. If you followed her into the dining room, you had to be patient, because she made friends at every table! Anne was serious, too – especially about the plight of those made poor. Wherever Anne was, she would find a way to reach out to the needy, just as St. Marguerite d’Youville did.
“We are companions on the journey . . . . called . . . to act with justice, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with our God.”
When Sr. Christina Mary worked with Covenant House in New York, and later when Sr. Maria Christi worked among the homeless in Philly, they could count on Anne to collect scarves and hats and gloves or whatever was needed.
Anne believed in both arms of Catholic social teaching – outreach or charity and also advocating for systemic change, for justice.
She was a great reader of non-fiction and often recommended books to me. Unfortunately, I often wrote down the titles and then never read the book! I had the good fortune to work with Anne at the turn of the century, on the Grey Nuns Millennium Committee. She was a great committee member.
When our Sr. Christina Mary lived at Roslyn, Anne and Pat sometimes came and visited her or invited her to visit them. They also stayed with Christina Mary when the rest of us were going to be away. Christina Mary, whom we called Chris and others called Tina, was always glad to be with the McKeon girls. I’m not sure if they were as enthusiastic about being with Sr. Betty Bagen’s dog, Sweetie-Pie!
I had a note from several of the Sisters of Charity of Convent Station. Anne lived with the Sisters of Charity for quite a while when she worked in Whippany and in Morristown, New Jersey. They were like a second religious community for her and some, after many years, still miss her at their retreat house in Harvey Cedars and at their Motherhouse retreats. One sister wrote to tell me that she would have Mass celebrated for Anne in their Holy Family chapel where Anne had spent lots of time in prayer.
Anne had some routines that she and Pat followed faithfully. After dinner, Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, and in the summer the baseball game. Pat told us that Anne also read the Bible daily. Others also told us that Anne could be found in the little chapel on Holy Redeemer Lafayette’s fourth floor in the evening, after most residents had retired to their apartments. In John’s gospel we heard: “As long as you remain in me and I in you, you bear much fruit.” Anne lived that mantra.
We are fortunate that Anne’s family shared with all of us the Anne they knew, and that we Grey Nuns could also share the Anne we knew. Obviously there’s lots more to her story but we count on God to know all those chapters. So, I say to Anne the words of a hymn that I’ve had in my head since Anne’s death:
Go now in peace faithful friend of God as you take our love into paradise.
God’s holy angels will lead you home to the wide waiting arms of the Lord.
Sister Anne McKeon, GNSH, (Sister Joseph Marie), 86, died suddenly in her sleep on August 29, 2019 in the 68th year of her religious life. Sister Anne was born on February 26, 1933, and entered the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart in 1951.
After 17 years as an educator of Junior High students, Sister Anne began parish ministry in 1971. Her 35 years in parish ministry were served in Jackson Heights, NY at St. Joan of Arc (13 yrs), Morristown (4 yrs) and Whippany (18 yrs), both in New Jersey.
Earlier, her years in the classroom took her to St Leo, Corona, Blessed Sacrament, Jackson Heights and St James, Depew all in New York State; St. Canicus, Mahanoy City, Melrose Academy, Melrose Park and Mother of Divine Providence, King of Prussia in Pennsylvania.
While at St Joan of Arc, in addition to her ministry responsibilities, she was the local religious superior from 1982 to 1986. In 2007 she retired to the Motherhouse in Yardley, PA. In 2015 she moved to Holy Redeemer Lafayette where she continued to engage in a ministry of prayer and friendly outreach to the residents.
Baptized Anne Mary, she was one of 5 children born to John J. and Mary Jane (Disken) McKeon in Jackson Heights, NY. She attended Blessed Sacrament School and graduated from St Agnes High School in College Point.
Anne entered the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart in 1951. She received her BA in English/Education from D’Youville College, Buffalo and an MA in Religious Education from LaSalle University. Anne is predeceased by her parents, her brother, John J., his wife, Cathy, and her sister, Mary’s husband, James. In addition to her religious community, she is survived by sisters, Sister Patricia Eileen, GNSH, and Mary Brown, and brother, William (Margaret).
Viewing: Saturday, September 7th at 10:30 a.m.
Redeemer Sisters Chapel
521 Moredon Road
Huntingdon Valley, PA 19006
Sharing of Memories: 11:15 am, prior to Mass
Mass of Christian Burial: 11:30 a.m.
Interrment: Resurrection Cemetery
Memorial contributions in Sister’s name, may be made to the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, 14500 Bustleton Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19116, or a secure online donation can be made by clicking here.
Funeral arrangements by Beck/Givnish, Inc.