Sister Catherine Lawlor, MM

Born: July 4, 1912
Entered: December 8, 1935
Died: June 27, 1990

On Wednesday morning, June 27, 1990, Sister Catharine Lawlor died quietly and peacefully at Phelps Memorial Hospital.

Catharine Elizabeth Lawlor was born in Brooklyn, NY on July 4, 1912 and grew up there, one of three children born to Edward and Mary Farrell Lawlor. Her education before Maryknoll was at Holy Names Grammar school and Bishop McDonnell Memorial High School in Brooklyn. While in high school, she was a leader in the Students Mission Crusade where her initial interest in mission began. After high school, Catharine worked as a statistical clerk until she entered Maryknoll in December of 1935.

At Reception she was given the name, Sister Mary Neri and made her first profession of Vows on June 30, 1938. While preparing for Final Vows, someone aptly described Catharine by saying, “She combines a beautiful seriousness of purpose with a sense of fun and good common sense. Her conversation is always practical and measured.”

In 1943, Catharine was assigned to Hawaii, where she spent the next 24 years. During her busy mission life there, she continued her studies part—time at the University of Hawaii and completed her Bachelor of Education from Maryknoll Teachers College in 1961. Her early ministries in Hawaii included teaching at several of our schools there, working in Maui Children’s Home and service to the Region as Regional secretary. In 1966 just before she returned for what we now call Congregational Service, she wrote this of mission in the Central Pacific Region: “There is so much to do here. I honestly feel that anyone who thinks there is insufficient scope for her apostolic energies, is failing to open her eyes to the many crying needs all around her. Although I now miss my students and my many years in the classroom, I find endless opportunities for meeting people everywhere and other equally challenging apostolic ideas.”

As we ourselves reflect on the many aspects of advancing years, we can see that Catharine modeled for us a way to grow older. Even as her physical capacity for full time engagement in teaching diminished, she found creative ways to do ministry, changing as her energies changed but always being in mission.

Returning to the Center in 1967, Catharine served as secretary in the Mission Education & Planning & Programming departments. After three years, she requested reassignment to the Central Pacific Region. From then, 1970, until 1980 she served the Region as a school librarian, Regional Finance Director & Bursar and during the last few years by doing home visiting and acting as Eucharistic Minister for the parish of St. Ann’s at Kanehoe.

Plans for a 1980 Renewal were abruptly interrupted for her when she suffered a severe illness and was admitted to our Nursing Home in August of 1980.

If Catharine’s early life was characterized by generosity, loyalty to Maryknoll and fidelity to the mission of Jesus through her life in Maryknoll, in her later years when severely limited, we could add the gifts of gratitude, enthusiasm and compassion. Through all her suffering she was able to maintain her relationship with her family, a keen interest in Congregational concerns and participation in community celebrations here at the Center.

We extend our sympathy to Catharine’s family and welcome Fr. Edward Manning, M.M. who joins us this morning to preside over our Eucharistic Celebration. Let us begin now and celebrate the Liturgy of the Resurrection of our friend and Sister — Catharine Lawlor.