Sister Incarnata Farrelly, MM

Born: September 8, 1907
Entered: October 29, 1927
Died: January 10, 1988

“Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom my soul delights.”

As Isaiah’s words resounded through the churches of the world on Sunday, January 10, 1988, the Feast of Christ’s Baptism in the Jordan River, Sister Mary Incarnata Farrelly went quietly to God about 9:00 p.m. She had been a patient at Phelps Memorial Hospital since December 28.

This sudden illness took everyone by surprise because, except for a hard cold, Sister Incarnata had been healthy and at work daily in the Admissions Department. In retrospect we wonder if she had a premonition that God awaited her during this Season of Incarnation, the season whose name she had chosen. Every bit of work was completed before she left for the holiday.

Rose Anna Farrelly was born September 8, 1907, in Hartford, Connecticut, the seventh of nine children born to John and Maria Kane Farrelly who came to the United States from County Westmeath, Ireland. She attended Hartford schools, was graduated from Merchants and Bankers Business School, later received her diploma from the Venard and a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Maryknoll Teachers College.

While practice teaching, records tell us that Sister Incarnata possessed to a marked degree every indication of a successful teacher: “Perfect understanding of youngsters, good discipline and effective presentation.” Later in Mahopac, New York, Sister’s CCD classes were noted for their vibrancy and engagement of the children in the Gospel message.

But formal teaching was to comprise a relatively small portion of Sister’s life. When she entered Maryknoll in October 1927 it was to go to the foreign missions to serve in whatever capacity God asked of her. Her First Profession here on April 30, 1930, was followed by study and her Final Profession three years later by service at the Motherhouse.

Finally, in 1936 it was her turn for a mission assignment and for the next eleven years in Honolulu, Hawaii, where Maryknoll Sisters had been asked to start a parochial school system, Sister Incarnata taught grammar school at St. Augustine’s and St. Anthony’s. One can only imagine her disappointment when ill health necessitated her return to the Center in 1947. Apart from a brief stay at Crichton House during which time she worked for the Maryknoll Fathers, she enthusiastically lived the next forty years here at the Knoll.

The Promotion Department, struggling to solicit funds for a quickly burgeoning Congregation, claimed her secretarial talents first. It was here that she formed a lifelong friendship with Sister Mary Eunice Tolan, its Director. No task was too great for either of these woman and together they were an indomitable team. In off hours they continued to enjoy each other’s company and when Sister Eunice retired, so to speak, it was with Sister Incarnata to chronicle the Maryknoll Sisters’ history in narrative and pictorial form. During our recently celebrated 75th Anniversary Year this history was on display in the library, a treasure for us all.

In 1982, Sister Incarnata began what proved to be the final chapter in her work for mission. She accepted the challenge to be secretary to the Admissions Team. Again it is told by those who worked with her how fully she participated in that team and how valuable her insights were into the lives of those who wrote. No request was too small for her. Every letter received an individual reply. In organizations our size there are always some challenging pieces of correspondence. Sister Incarnata could deal with these very creatively. For one person she even had a rosary fixed! No one had a need unimportant to her. She was a person little in size, large in heart, always living with the mission of Jesus in mind, always asking prayers for missioners everywhere.

We offer our heartfelt sympathy to the Sister Incarnata’s family and friends.

Today we welcome Fathers Edward Manning, M.M., Norbert Rans, M.M., and Sylvio Gilbert, M.M., who will celebrate with us the Liturgy of the Resurrection.

“Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom my soul delights.”