Biographies

Sister Mary Theophane Shea, MM

Born: March 2, 1880
Entered: April 17, 1912
Died: April 22, 1940

There are flowers that show forth their beauty during the day, and as the shadows lengthen fold their petals in sleep, to open them again only with the rising of the sun. Kindred to that loveliness was the soul of our Sister Mary Theophane, who through life’s day emanated the delicate aroma of virtue, and when the dark night came gently closed her eyes, to awaken on a new dawn at the gates of Paradise, there to continue, through the Divine Mercy, her eternal praise of the Godhead.

Sister Mary Theophane, Honora Frances Shea, was born in Randolph, Massachusetts March 2, 1880, the fifth in a family of eight children.

Trained in secretarial work, she was engaged in 1909 by Father Walsh, then Director of the Boston office of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. The apostolate of The Field Afar, the purpose of which was to awaken American Catholics to a sense of their obligation to participate actively and personally in the foreign-mission work of the Church, had already been launched by Father Walsh and a small group of mission-minded priests; and, in her capacity as secretary to this endeavor, Miss Shea was privileged to know intimately the foundation and beginnings of the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, to whose service her life was to be dedicated in heroic selflessness.

In 1911, while the founders of Maryknoll, Father Walsh and Father Price, were in Europe, Miss Shea managed The Field Afar office in Boston; and in 1912, when the infant Society was cradled in Hawthorne, Miss Shea went along with the other secretaries who had volunteered their services to the new Society to help in the establishment of The Field Afar office. While the others remained continuously at the center, Miss Shea was for some months often in Boston and other New England cities in the interest of the work.

In the fall of 1912 the young Society found its permanent home near Ossining, New York; and the nucleus of today’s blessed Maryknoll priests, students, auxiliary brothers, and Sisters, moved from Hawthorne to Mary’s chosen knoll among the beautiful Westchester hills.

The group of secretaries, known as “Teresians,” grew in numbers and in religious observance, until they were canonically established by Rome in 1920. In 1921 first vows were made, and Sister Mary Theophane (Shea) always counted that anniversary as the happiest day of her life.

As the Maryknoll Fathers opened new centers, the Sisters followed them wherever Father Walsh saw need of their services. Sister Mary Theophane could always be counted on for pioneer work, and to her were entrusted successive posts of responsibility and trust at the Venard, in Scranton; in Seattle, Washington; at Los Altos, California; and at the Motherhouse.

She was quietly active, gently firm, sweetly patient, sanely prudent, genuinely humble, deeply devout, unfailingly loyal, crystal clear, delicately charitable towards rich and poor, and endowed with rare and sparkling humor.

These natural gifts she had so refined through cooperation with grace, that during the long months of illness which led to her death on April 22, they seemed to irradiate her form and to draw us to her as if in hope of absorbing something of her exquisite nobility of soul.

Sister Mary Theophane’s death has created a great void which can he filled only by our consciousness that her sweet spirit still broods over us in loving, prayerful watchfulness as we carry on our work for the extension of Gods kingdom.

Of your charity, we ask a remembrance for her soul.