Sister Cecilia Marie Carvalho, MM

Born: December 17, 1905
Entered: July 21, 1929
Died: March 7, 1982

“You have not chosen me, I have chosen you.” These were the words that Sister Cecilia Marie Carvalho had used to describe the essence of her missionary vocation. Throughout her life, she was ever mindful of Christ’s call to her and on Sunday, the 7th of March, 1982, Christ chose to call her home to join the Maryknoll Community in heaven.

Laura (“Lolly”) Carvalho was born in Hong Kong on December 17, 1905. There she attended St. Mary’s School and later she completed a course in business and secretarial work. While working as a secretary, she met the Maryknoll Sisters who were newly arrived in Hong Kong. She soon joined a Sewing Circle that Sister Cecilia Cruickshank had started with a group of Hong Kong girls. This association with the Sisters resulted in Lolly’s decision to enter Maryknoll and, in 1929, she traveled to New York with Sister M. Paul McKenna and Phyllis Wong (later, Sister Mary Theresita).

Shortly after first profession on January 6, 1932, Sister Cecilia Marie returned to Hong Kong to begin a long and dedicated career in secretarial service to the Congregation. Her work was interrupted during World War II when she and the other Sisters of Portuguese nationality were separated from the rest of the Maryknoll Community who were interned. These Sisters valiantly carried on until some of the interned Maryknollers were released from camp and all were able to make their way, amid frequently dropping bombs, into the interior of China. When at last the War ended, Sister Cecilia Marie left Kunming and returned to Hong Kong.

Sister was more than an efficient secretary. Her letters always carried a personal note which reflected her interest in and concern for each person. In spite of the heavy demands of her position, she found time to write to Sisters away from the Region, sharing news of things she knew would be of interest to them.

Most of us will remember Sister Cecilia Marie best as our intrepid guide as we climbed, walked, crawled over every hill and dale of the Crown Colony. Ordnance Map in hand, she pointed out the most noteworthy aspects of the Hong Kong terrain. Second only to her enthusiasm for walking, was her interest in Bridge and in swimming. Many a recreation was made more enjoyable by her enthusiastic participation.

For many years Sister Cecilia Marie suffered from increasing deafness. Efforts to alleviate this handicap not only proved futile but frustrating and she felt herself more and more cut off from human contact. This was particularly trying to her as she had always expressed an interest in and a concern for those around her. Retirement for many is dreaded, but Sister Cecilia Marie welcomed it as an opportunity to be more relaxed, to pray more, to have more time for people and to pursue another favorite hobby: reading.

Today, we gather in our Eucharistic celebration to rejoice that Sister Cecilia Marie has been called to that final phase of life – the eternal happiness of the heavenly Kingdom. While we rejoice in this fact, we are not unmindful of her relatives to whom she was devoted and who will miss her earthly presence. We pray that Mary under her title of Our Lady of Fatima will be a comfort and consolation to them at this time.

The Celebrant of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass this morning is the Reverend James P. Noonan, M.M., Superior General of the Maryknoll Fathers Society.