Sister Christina Anne Scully, MM

Born: December 20, 1904
Entered: October 15, 1928
Died: December 30, 2002

On this January morning, much like Christmas with freshly falling snow, we gather to celebrate the life of Sister Christina Scully who brought so much joy to our lives by her gentle manner, the twinkle in her eyes, her laughter and quick wit. The feast of Christmas was a special day for Sister for it was this feast, the birth of Christ, that she chose to mark and celebrate as her special feast day. We are grateful for her presence with us for so many years as we gather to celebrate her life.

On December 30, at 9 pm, Sister Christina Anne Scully died peacefully on the third floor of Maryknoll Residential Care (MRC). She was 98 years of age and celebrated her 73rd anniversary as a Maryknoll Sister last October.

Christina Anne Scully was born in Killmallock, County Limerick, Ireland on December 20, 1904 to Patrick and Johannah [Harrington] Scully. She had three brothers and three sisters. Christina graduated from the local parish school and then studied home economics in Limerick, where her skill and creativity in sewing were immediately apparent. At the age of 21, she came to the United States and settled in Boston where she worked for 2 1/2 years before entering the Maryknoll Sisters on October 15, 1928.

She made her first vows on the Feast of the Epiphany in 1931 and her final vow three years later here at Maryknoll. For two years after her first profession, Sr. Christina was Guest Mistress here at the Center, and then in 1934 she was assigned to the Maryknoll Fathers Junior Seminary in Clark’s Summit, PA where she was in charge of the Seminary kitchen.

In 1939, Sister Christina was assigned to the West Coast where she worked for the next 33 years. Fourteen of those years were spent in Los Angeles among Japanese migrants. In the 1930 and early 40’s, the Sisters in Los Angeles ran a school for the children of Japanese immigrants. During the war, the school was closed and turned into a children’s home for over 30 youngsters. Sister Christina was responsible for cooking all the meals for the children’s home as well as the convent. In 1949, the school was able to be reopened.

Sister Christina was then assigned to be in charge of the hospital kitchen in Monrovia which was a Sanatorium for persons with tuberculosis, most of whom were Japanese immigrants. The Sisters who lived and worked with her spoke of her kindness to the patients and the care she took in her cooking so that they would become healthier and stronger.

Sister Christina was assigned to Stockton, CA. from 1953 to 1961. She enjoyed attending parish functions, getting to know the parishioners and welcomed them to visit the Sisters’ house where she made them feel right at home. She was in charge of the kitchen and baked cakes and specialty breads as gifts for the doctor who took care of the Sisters without charge. During this period Sister studied catechetics and she displayed a real hunger for learning more about the New Testament. Sister was well read, enjoyed learning new ideas and loved reading books on spirituality. Christina was known to be a very prayerful person. She was the last one out of chapel at night and the first there in the morning.

In 1968, Sister Christina and two other Maryknoll Sisters began their new ministry as parish visitors in a large rural parish along the Russian River in northern California. The parish had mission churches in the lumbering, sheep raising and dairy areas. The Sisters lived in a cottage on the side of a hill in Monte Rio – next door to St. Catherine’s Church. They went visiting door to door getting to know the people within the sprawling boundaries of this parish and assessing their needs. Sister Christina focused her ministry on the elderly seniors of Monte Rio and was warmly received by those she visited. Within a short period of time, there were four funerals in the tiny town of Monte Rio and the priest could not be there for them. Sister Christina stepped in to take care of arrangements and was present to the families in a special way that was always much appreciated.

One of the Sisters living with Christina at that time recalled their being awakened at 2am by the enraged husband of one of the parishioners. He came banging on the front door, shouting threats and was aiming a loaded shotgun at the front door. He thought the Sisters would know where his wife had run off to with her hairdresser! For quite some time the Sisters were standing in their bathrobes in the doorway of their little house trying to calm and console this man while trying to get him to put the shotgun away, which he eventually did. The sisters who lived with Sr. Christina in this small cottage described her as wonderful to live with as she had a playful sense of humor. She was an energetic woman, faithful to what was asked of her no matter how difficult – a perceptive person with a twinkle in her eye and a quick wit.

Sister’s earlier catechetical studies proved very helpful during the next three years, from 1969 to 1972, when she taught the children of Mexican migrant workers in the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine program in Guadalupe, CA.

In 1972, Sister Christina returned to the Maryknoll where she served as Sacristan at the Maryknoll Major Seminary for the next 13 years. As part of her duties, Sister Christina not only organized all the preparations and on-going activities for the liturgies in the two first floor chapels, she also easily handled all the ground floor chapels where many altars were located for the use of individual priests celebrating the Eucharist. This meant changing candles, the preparation of cruets, chalices and vestments for each Mass. The vestments and over 200 albs used weekly required organizing and laundering. She was frequently seen carrying or directing carts piled high with albs and altar linens towards the laundry room. One of the Seminarians who worked in the Sacristy with her for four years and who is now ordained noted that “It would be so easy to speak of her incomparable efficiency, her exhaustive attention to detail, her deep commitment to her work and her warm personality. But what remains sharpest in his memory of Sr. Christina was her instrumentality in creating an atmosphere wherein a liturgical ceremony became a truly prayerful, transforming experience. One short story illustrated this gift of hers. The Seminarian recalled one very important liturgical ceremony in which Sr. Christina and he were serving as sacristans. The priest who was Main Celebrant was a formidable man with a very exacting personality and very fussy about details. For the washing of the hands, this Seminarian had placed the cruet on the credence table as he was supposed to have done, but he had forgotten to put any water in it. When it came time in the Mass for the lavabo and the server began to tip the cruet for the washing of hands, the Seminarian could see on the Celebrant’s face a flash of anger. He expected that the server would be told to go back into the sacristy to get water. But no sooner was the flash of anger there than it was gone! To the surprise of all, the Celebrant shook the nonexistent water from his fingers and with great flourish wiped his hands. After Mass, in the sacristy, that formidable man winked at Sr. Christina and then loudly and laughingly acclaimed to all the concelebrants that he just had his first experience of “dry-cleaning” during a liturgy. It was because of his respect and affection for Sr. Christina that this formidable man released his anger which transformed him so that he could continue prayerfully throughout the liturgy.

During her retirement which began in 1985, she made many lovely items for the Maryknoll Sisters Bazaars. Her novelty pillow which she made from special printed fabric and then cut, stuffed and designed were like sculptures when finished. They all sold very quickly at the bazaar and she got special orders for these pillows year round. She did her part for the Eden fund-raising events in MRC by knitting caps and baby bibs. For the Sisters, she generously made bags to hang on the front of their walkers so that they could conveniently carry with them whatever they might need for the day. She also made curtains for the doors on the 3rd and 4th floor of Residential Care. And the kitchen staff were not forgotten as she made them gifts of pot holders.

Gratitude was one of Christina’s most endearing characteristics and she showed this in very concrete ways. The Sisters in charge of the Co-op remember her coming in to do her weekly shopping and thanking them for the selection they offered. She then picked out candy and cookies which she would put out for the nurses who were taking care of the Sisters on her floor. These little treats let the nurses know how much their activities on behalf of the Sisters were appreciated by her. She also made sure that she had little presents on hand to give to every child visiting the third floor to make the visit a special occasion. She was loved by everyone who met her, from the youngest to the oldest.

When she was able, she would make trips to Maine to visit her sister, and other family members. She never wanted to put any one out but certainly enjoyed eating Maine lobster whenever she was there, and as a friend mentioned, the lobsters were probably bigger than she was.

We offer our deepest sympathy to Sister Christiana’s family and friends, including her sister and her nieces and nephews.

We welcome the many Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers present here today. We thank you for your kind remembrance of Sister Christina throughout the years. We warmly welcome Father Stephen Wood, who will preside at this Liturgy of Christian Burial as we give thanks for the life of Sister Christina Scully.