Sister Angela Marie Coveny, MM

Born: January 15, 1902
Entered: December 8, 1931
Died: October 23, 1998

“As one lamp lights another nor grows less, so nobleness enkindles nobleness.” Today, the birthday of Mother Mary Joseph, we gather together to celebrate and thank God for the life of Sister Angela Marie Coveny. Sister was enkindled by Mother Mary Joseph’s spirit, entered the Maryknoll Sisters on December 8,1931, and for sixty-six years enkindled this same spirit in all whom she met. Sister died peacefully in the Residential Care Unit at Maryknoll, New York on October 23, 1998. She was ninety-six years of age.

Angela Sarah Coveny was born January 15, 1902 in Chatham, Kent County, Ontario, Canada, one of eight children – five daughters and three sons – to Richard and Agnes Quellette Coveny. Angela attended Ursuline Academy in Chatham and received a Certificate as a Registered Nurse in 1929 from St. Joseph’s Hospital School of Nursing, also in Chatham. Following graduation she did private duty nursing.

At Reception at Maryknoll, New York, Angela received the religious name of Sister Angela Marie. She made her First Profession June 30, 1934, and the following year was assigned to Gishu, Korea (presently North Korea) where she made her Final Profession June 30, 1937. She studied the Korean language and ministered as a nurse in Maryknoll Clinics in Gishu and Peng Yang in Korea, and in Fushun, Manchuria. On December 8, 1941, the 10th anniversary of her entrance into Maryknoll, she was interned as a foreign national, first in Mukden from December 1941 to July 12, 1942 and then in Fushun from July 12, 1942 to September 9, 1943. Interned with her were Maryknoll Sister Miriam Smith, twenty priests and twenty-five missioners of other Christian denominations. Sister Angela Marie nursed them all through physical difficulties and kept their spirits alive with her sparkling sense of humor and Irish jokes. It has been said of Sister in these days that she never went anywhere without her prayer book, rosary and the Merck Manual; the joke book was in her head! Speaking of those times, Sister Angela Marie remarked: “In spite of the internment, there were many consolations. We had daily Mass, the thoughtfulness and cheerful spirit of Bishop Lane and the priests with whom we were interned and the kindness of our faithful Chinese, Korean and Japanese Christians who saved us from starvation at the risk of their own lives.” She promised herself while in internment that if she ever got out she would never see anyone go hungry if it was in her power to help them.

Upon her return to the United States, Sister Angela Marie spent three years ministering as a nurse in the Infirmary at the Center. She returned to China in 1946 and for the next five years served in various clinics in Fushun, Laipo and Kweilin. She loved her work with the Chinese people.

In 1951, because of the political situation, it was necessary for Sister to leave China. Upon returning home she once again served the community taking care of the Sisters in the infirmary at the Center, and then for seventeen years served as infirmarian at the Novitiates in Valley Park, Missouri and Topsfield, Massachusetts. Many Sisters fondly remember her kindnesses and her “saving grace of a sense of humor!” In 1969 she returned to the Center and continued to serve the Sisters until 1988 when her own health needs required admission to the Residential Care Unit.

In February 1990, Sister Angela Marie shared with Sister Joyce Quinn, a member of the Central Governing Board, an event in her life that was very meaningful to her and asked that it be included in her Letter of Appreciation. She entitled the event “The Miracle of Mary”.

“In 1939 in Tung Hua, Manchuria, I visited a young woman who had been badly beaten by her husband because she had not born him a son to carry on the family name. Her whole body was one mass of pain with her back and legs bruised and swollen from the beatings. I gave her medication to relieve her severe pain but I was quite sure she would not recover. I tried to talk to her a little about religion, hoping and praying that she would consent to be baptized. I went to the clinic for more medicine and when I returned she felt much better as the medicine had relieved her pain. I again started telling her about God, Baptism, the Catholic Church. She listened attentively and finally said she would like to be baptized. I baptized her ‘Mary’. When I told her there would be no suffering in heaven, she looked up and said: ‘Oh, how wonderful that will be. Do you mean I won’t have to suffer when I get to heaven?’ And she gave a sigh of relief. Later on I brought the priest to the house to complete the baptismal ceremony. Mary died a couple hours later.

The next afternoon I returned to the village to visit some other patients and stopped in to offer sympathy to Mary’s parents. While we were talking the father asked me: ‘Who was that beautiful lady that came with you yesterday? She stood next to you near my daughter’s bed, while Father was praying. She had such a beautiful face and wore a long blue gown and had a white veil on her head. You remember, when you were leaving, I accompanied you to the door and thanked all of you for coming. But the beautiful lady had disappeared. Who was she?’

I replied that only three of us were there. Just at that moment a picture of our Blessed Mother that I used for a bookmark in my catechism fell to the ground. The man picked it up and said: ‘Why did you tell me you did not know her? This is her picture just as I saw her with you yesterday with blue gown and white veil, and the most beautiful face.’

What was I to say? I was firmly convinced that this poor man who was not a Christian and had never heard of the Blessed Mother, had really seen her. I still have that picture and call it the ‘Miraculous Picture.'”

This event had a strong impact on Sister Angela Marie and deepened her dedication to the Blessed Mother and to mission.

We offer our deepest sympathy to Sister’s family and friends. We welcome and thank Sister’s long-time friend, Ms. Catherine Daly, for her presence with us today. We also welcome our Maryknoll brother, Father James Manning, who will preside at this Liturgy of Christian Burial, as together we give thanks for the gift of Sister Angela Marie’s life. We pray today that Sister Angela Marie is united with Mary, our Mother; with Mary, whom she baptized many years ago; as well as with all the Maryknollers in heaven.