Biographies

Sister Mary Henrietta Coppard, MM

Born: February 27, 1905
Entered: October 18, 1926
Died: May 27, 1963

This morning , Monday, May 27, at 5:30, Sister Mary Henrietta went very quietly and peacefully to her eternal reward.

Sister Mary Henrietta (Alice Josephine Coppard) was born in San Francisco, February 27, 1905, and a few years later moved with her family to Chicago. She came to Maryknoll October 18, 1926, and received the habit April 30, 1927. Two years later on the same date, Sister made her profession of vows and was sent to the Catholic University in Washington, D.C. for a summer course, preparatory to a teaching assignment in Kalihi Kai, Hawaii in the fall. Ten years of teaching in St. Anthony’s School, Kalihi, gave Sister experience in almost all elementary grades.

In the summer of 1939, Sister Mary Henrietta returned to the Motherhouse to complete her work for a Teacher Certificate, which she received in 1941, after which she returned to Hawaii. Two years later she had finished the requirements for her degree in Education. In 1944 Sister was appointed Superior and Principal at Saint Anthony’s and served in this capacity until 1950 when she was assigned to Guatemala. Upon receiving word of this change, Sister wrote to Mother Mary Columba that she was “stunned.” But, she added: “I want you to know that I am grateful and will try to do whatever you wish me to do for souls in Guatemala… I presume Spanish is used. Being over forty, I may not make out so well! However, the Lord can supply what is so lacking in me.” One of the Sisters in Hawaii at the time wrote that the people were very opposed to Sister’s leaving and planned to send in a petition to Mother. Sister Mary Henrietta promptly put an end to such negotiations by speaking to them of the Will of God until they were content to express themselves in tears. It so happened that conditions in Guatemala were unsettled at the time, the departure of the Sisters was delayed, and Sister Mary Henrietta remained in Hawaii another year to help with the Catechetical program. The following year she was assigned to Chile and arrived there in September 1951. In 1952, she went to Chillan as superior of this new mission and remained in that office until 1958.

In January 1958, Sister became ill and was taken to Santiago, and there underwent treatment. Because she did not regain her strength and had continued difficulty, it was decided to have Sister brought to New York for further medical care. Through these years, Sister suffered pain and discomfort uncomplainingly, and at times even appeared to be improving in health. She never gave up hope of being able to return to her mission, or at least of being “more useful” here, while offering the sacrifice of “the now” for the Chile missions. Her spirit was remarkable and she remained as active as she could, always eager to be with the community for spiritual exercises, meals and recreation. She enjoyed little trips with the Sisters and only recently joined them in viewing “Mona Lisa” on exhibition in New York City.

In the fall of 1962, Sister’s condition had grown worse. From then on she embraced the inevitable with her customary courage. She managed to be about and only of late had to resort to a wheel-chair when leaving her room. On Friday, May 24, her long illness seemed about to reach its climax and her sister, Henrietta, was called. Sister seemed to be summoning all her strength for that final reunion with one she loved so much. To the surprise of all, she lived through two more days. Often during this time she was heard praying for her former missions and for many other intentions, self-forgetful to the very end.

Much more could be said of Sister Mary Henrietta – of her devotion and complete self-giving at all times, to her Sisters, and to the pupils and alumni who came to her with all their joys and problems. So much will be written only in heaven. But for all of us who knew her, Sister will remain a wonderful example of loving perseverance in the apostolate of work and of suffering, of a sweet and gentle spirit and a quiet heroic generosity. While we hope that her long purgatory here has sufficed to prepare her dear soul for the vision of God, let us not forget her in our prayers.