Sister Cecilia Viveiros, MM

Born: January 6, 1909
Entered: March 25, 1930
Died: December 26, 1999

This morning we gather together to express our profound and humble gratitude for the priceless gift of our Sister Cecilia Viveiros, whom we have touched and have known as our Sister and Friend. In the stillness of night on December 26, the Feast of St. Stephen, and this year, the Feast of the Holy Family, just fifteen minutes before midnight, Cecilia entered peacefully into Eternal Life in our Nursing Residence at Maryknoll, NY.

Cecilia Agnes was born on January 6, 1909, in Cambridge, MA, to Maria DeSacramento Viveiros and John Viveiros, both of whom were born in Portugal. They moved to Somerville, MA, where the family belonged to St. Joseph Parish. Her Mother died in 1922 when Cecilia was thirteen years old. Her father remarried and Cecilia’s brother, was born in December 1923. She was especially close to her brother, even though there were 15 years difference in their age. Cecilia was educated in the public schools of Somerville, where she received two extra promotions in Grammar School, graduating from High School in 1925. She studied at night for a year at Burdette Business College in Boston where she learned the secretarial skills through which she earned her living and which later proved invaluable to the Maryknoll Sisters.

Her brother, shared last evening that before Cecilia came to Maryknoll, she learned to drive the family car, sitting on two telephone books! Cecilia was impressed with “Maryknoll’s joyous, free spirit,” and entered the Congregation on March 25, 1930, receiving the name Sister Teresa Marie at her Reception. She made her First Profession of Vows on January 6, 1933, and her Final Profession also on the Feast of the Epiphany in 1936. She was assigned in 1933 to study, majoring in History, at Immaculate Heart College in Hollywood, CA, graduating in 1936 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree, completing four years of college in three years.

Cecilia’s quick mind and secretarial skills made her an ideal secretary for Mother Mary Joseph. As personal secretary, she assumed several roles, including Mother’s driver and companion, and the two women became very dear friends. Of this precious experience, Cecilia wrote: “My very close association with Mother Mary Joseph will always be a treasured gift to me. Mother was so specially gifted not only with the vision of a Foundress, but with an all-embracing heart of the whole world and its people, and all the other characteristics that made her such a widely-loved person. Mother had such a balanced view of things in general, that I feel much of my personal growth took place during this period of my life.”

Cecilia shared a special moment in her life that happened when she was working late one evening in Mother’s office. Mother came in and smiling gratefully at Cecilia, said: you are like a wastepaper basket to me! Cecilia said she felt the love in Mother’s voice, but was somewhat perplexed by her metaphor. Then Mother said what I mean is that I know anything I share with you will not go any further– it is like taking the content of a wastepaper basket and burning it– and for this, I am grateful!

Cecilia was blessed with a beautiful singing voice which she shared so generously in the Schola and in numerous plays and entertainments. She could have been a professional actress, so good were her performances! She was called “Mother’s Songbird.” In those early days, her petite frame was like a ball of energy as she quickly but quietly walked through the corridors, fulfilling whatever tasks needed to be done! In 1946, Cecilia facilitated a smooth transition for Mother Mary Columba, who succeeded Mother Mary Joseph.

When Cecilia was asked about her meaningful experiences, besides working so closely with Mother Mary Joseph, she said: “In 1950, I was privileged to accompany Mother Columba on one of her Visitation trips, and the first-hand view of the missions further enlarged my appreciation of our missioners’ ministries. And to this I might add, Sister Consuela’s and my Retreats which we gave in the Orient in 1971–a ‘first’ for the Cloister!”

It was on December 3, 1958 that Cecilia received her assignment to the Contemplative Community and entered on February 2, 1959. Speaking of this assignment, she saw it as something to which she had aspired almost from the beginning and now “a treasured Silver Jubilee gift.” She accounted this as a fulfillment of her missionary life, for it had not only occasioned, among other things, growth in inner freedom, but offered the opportunity to reach out in spirit to everyone in the world. Cecilia served our Contemplative Community for a term as Coordinator from 1973 to 1975, and in 1974 was the Contemplative Community’s Delegate at the Maryknoll Sisters’ Tenth General Assembly.

In 1975 Cecilia became part of the Contemplative Community in Gallup, NM, among the Navajo Indians, arriving in Gallup via train on September 9, and so happily realizing it was the same day Mother Mary Joseph came to Hawthorne in 1912. She remained in Gallup till 1985, when the Community turned over its dwelling to another Contemplative group in order to respond to requests in Guatemala and Sudan.

During the past nine years, she was particularly grateful for the love and care given to her by so many of you, and our Center Sisters. It was obvious the last week of Cecilia’s life that her heart had an inner strength that far surpassed the fragile frame of her body. Several Sisters, keeping vigils at her bedside, commented that they experienced a very deep peace in being with her.

Today we extend our heartfelt sympathy to Cecilia’s Family, who have been so faithful and generous to her all through the years and such a source of joy.  When her nephews and niece were very small and they visited Maryknoll, Mother Mary Joseph would come to greet the family. It was a custom for the children to sit on Mother’s lap and often they played with her veil, medal, cape, without any disturbance to her! They felt so much at home with Mother and she with them!

We found in Cecilia’s folder, good secretary that she was, the songs she selected for today, as well as the Scripture Readings — the first two will be read by her nephews. We welcome our brother Maryknoller, Father John Moran, who will preside at our Liturgy of Christian Burial. Father Moran was Chaplain and Confessor for the Contemplative Community and had known Cecilia through the years, and we are grateful he is able to be with us today. We now join with our dear Sister and Friend, Cecilia, knowing she is interceding for all of us with God!