Sister Eucharia Doherty, MM
Born: November 11, 1912
Entered: December 29, 1935
Died: June 7, 1999
“Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the realm of God.” These words, in today’s second reading from Saint Mark’s Gospel, describe very much the life of Sister Eucharia Doherty, whose Eucharistic Liturgy of Christian Burial we celebrate today. Sister Eucharia possessed a great love for children and dedicated some forty years of her life ministering to them.
Sister Eucharia had been a Maryknoll Sister for sixty-three years. She died on June 7, 1999, at the age of eighty-six in our Residential Care Unit at Maryknoll, NY.
Rita Frances Doherty was born November 11, 1912, in Brooklyn, NY, to Francis and Ann Daley Doherty. She was one of seven children, three sons and four daughters. The family lived in St. Malachy’s Parish where Rita attended primary school and Bishop McDonnell Memorial High School. She graduated high school in 1930 and four years later received a B.A. degree from St. Joseph’s College, Brooklyn. In preparing for her future, after college she also attended Heffley’s Commercial School for six months.
Rita entered the Maryknoll Sisters Congregation on December 29, 1935. She received the religious name of Sister Eucharia at her Profession of First Vows on June 30, 1938, at Maryknoll, NY. That same year, she was assigned to work in Los Angeles, CA, where she made her Final Vows on the same date in 1941. Sister Eucharia remained in California until 1945 at which time she returned to Maryknoll, NY to work in the post office where she gave nine years of service.
In 1954, Sister Eucharia returned to California where she worked as a catechetical teacher in Stockton as well as teaching Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) classes to grades six through eight in Guadalupe, CA. During this time, she spoke of her ministry saying: “While our main work is with the church and Confraternity of Christian Doctrine classes, we also deal with many other needs such as social services, unemployment, housing, marital problems, distribution of used clothing, and emergency food supply.” These ad hoc activities led her to represent the community of Guadalupe on the Board of Catholic Social Service and the California Association of Mental Health. During this time, she also gave informal religious instruction in the people’s homes.
Many of the parents of the children that Sister Eucharia taught were migrant farm workers with very little financial resources. As First Communion time drew near, Sister Eucharia could be seen walking to the different homes with an armful of fluffy white Communion dresses made by her Women’s Club to give to these families for their daughter’s First Communion Day.
In 1977, Sister Eucharia joined the Senior Unit at Monrovia, CA, where she was in charge of the laundry. After these two years of service to the Congregation, Sister Eucharia moved to Terryville, CT, where she became involved in teaching religion classes, home visiting and working with “Friends of the Terryville Library” to increase library usage by those in the area.
In 1989, Sister Eucharia applied for retirement and returned to our retirement facility in Monrovia, CA, for three years. Increasing need for more medical care brought her to our Maryknoll Sisters Center in 1992. In writing about Sister Eucharia, the Coordinator of Monrovia stated: “Sister is an outstanding religious and a wonderful example to all who live with her. Her wonderful spirit, wit and humor in the midst of a truly difficult affliction have won the admiration of all of us.”
When Sister requested to return to the Center, she was asked: “How do you see yourself as ‘being in mission’ during this time of retirement?” She responded by saying: “I see myself as a ‘Prayer’ presence accepting each day of my illness with patience as it progresses. I also see myself as being present to other ill Sisters – listening and encouraging them.” It was at this time that Sister Eucharia received the assignment to pray for the Mission Institute which she faithfully carried out during these past years.
The last years of Sister Eucharia’s life were difficult ones due to her illness. Before the onset she wrote a note in which she stated: “Should I be ill at the Motherhouse or elsewhere, I would appreciate visits and also praying with or listening to prayers even if I cannot take part. On the following pages are some of my favorite prayers.” These prayers were very meaningful to her and as we say goodbye to Sister Eucharia, I would like to pray one of the prayers which was a favorite of hers and which gives us a vivid picture of Sister Eucharia’s spirituality and deep faith. We prayed this prayer by her bedside right after her death. The prayer is, “Oh holy Mary, my Queen, into Thy blessed trust and custody I, this day and at the hour of my death, commend my soul and body. To Thee I commit my every hope and consolation, all my anxieties and miseries, my life and the end of my life that by Thy most holy intercession and by Thy merits all my actions may be directed and disposed according to Thy will and that of Thy Son.”
Sister Eucharia entrusted her life to God through Mary and Jesus and today we rejoice with her as she now lives with the God that she served and sought throughout her life. In the name of the Maryknoll Sisters, I wish to express our sympathy to Sister Eucharia’s family and friends. We thank you for sharing her with us. I also wish to welcome our brother Maryknoller, Father George Ratermann, M.M., who will preside at this Liturgy of Christian Burial.