Biographies

Sister M. Agatha Davin, MM

Born: February 11, 1894
Entered: October 15, 1915
Died: April 1, 1984

We gather together this morning faced once again with the mysteries of life and death, sickness and health, the passion and the resurrection. We join with the family of Sister Agatha to wish her Godspeed on this, her final journey, in a life that was touched with special suffering and very special joys.

Sister Mary Agatha was born Ella Davin in New York City on the 11th of February, 1894, the second daughter of Francis and Mary Mondorf Davin. On October 15, 1915, Ella Davin became the first girl from the New York Archdiocese to enter the fledgling community of Sisters in Ossining, New York, after having kept house for her father and sisters since her early teens. The Decree of Canonical Recognition of the Maryknoll Sisters arrived from Rome on February 14, 1920, and, after the one, mandated year of novitiate, Sister Agatha joined the Sisters of the First Profession group who pronounced their vows on February 15, 1921. She made her Final Vows three years later.

It was in these early years of religious life that the profound mystery of God’s action in this soul was manifested for the first time. Sister Agatha longed for a mission assignment, but when the time came and the assignment was a real possibility, Sister Agatha suffered the first of many bouts of illness. She was an affectionate and loving person, especially so with Mother Mary Joseph and with her own family. Even as a young Sister, she was under Mother Mary Joseph’s special motherly care, and her father, a skilled carpenter, moved to this area in order to be nearer to his loved daughter – perhaps the thought of severing these ties was too much to bear. She was to suffer for all her life with illness; but, in her better days, she always contributed something for others and for the mission effort. She worked in the Seminary kitchen, on the multigraph machine, in the folding room of the laundry, in the bakery, and as portress at The Cloister. She was also an exceptionally talented woman, making trays of pressed butterflies and dried flowers under glass that sold very well in the small gift shop at Rosary House. Intricate and lovely baskets also reflected the artistic dimensions of her personality.

Her spirit through these difficult years continued to be joyous and loving. When asked to complete the recommendation forms for Final Vows for some Sisters who worked with her, Sister Agatha wrote to Mother Mary Columba: “…and so with a grateful heart to those who closed their eyes to my shortcomings and generously accepted me, giving me the years ahead to struggle toward self-conquest and the hope to arrive at virtue, I would wholeheartedly want to give the same opportunity to every candidate.”

Those of us who entered in the late 1950s or early 1960s have very clear memories of Sister Agatha as she ventured out in all kinds of weather to care for the birds outside the dining room door. It was at her instigation that the permanent bird-feeder was built there, a loving act towards those more fragile than herself.

In 1969, Sister Agatha’s sister, Babe, became ill and helpless and, although her own health was far from robust at this time, Sister Agatha went home to Bronxville to take care of her sister until Babe’s death in 1973. Her fidelity to this task, at great physical cost to herself, reflected her life of steadfast courage and joy in the service of this mission community.

The last working years of Sister Agatha’s life were spent here at The Center helping out in the bakery. In 1973, when she was 79 years old, she was much distressed by the situation of the Sisters in Managua, Nicaragua, and asked that money be taken from her personal allowance which she had not spent and sent to the Sisters there.

Sister Agatha was in failing health and went to Bethany in 1975; her closest relationship there was with her friend and helper Daisy Haynes. No one rejoiced more than Daisy at Sister Agatha’s small victories in these last years. Perhaps all of us have as our most recent memory the plaintive plea of Sister Agatha: “Will you put me to bed?” Her cry for release and rest has been heard and she has passed through what must have been for her at times a valley of great darkness; she has entered with joy into the light and life of the new heaven and new earth where “God will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, crying out or pain.” In this Eucharistic Liturgy, let us joyfully unite ourselves with Jesus as he offers himself and us to God in the paschal mystery.

We greet Fr. Mike Pierce, who will celebrate the Liturgy with us this morning.