Sister Irene Mahoney, MM

Born: April 4, 1921
Entered: September 6, 1945
Died: July 16, 1993

Today, we celebrate the passage into new life of Sister Irene Mahoney, who slipped into the peace of our compassionate God on July 16, 1993 in Phelps Hospital.

Our Maryknoll Sister Irene Mahoney was a generous, joyous missioner sustained by a deep prayer life, with compassion for the poor, fired by a vision filled with reverence for them.

Sister Irene was born on April 4, 1921 into a strong Catholic family who were a source of tremendous joy and strength to her all life long. Sister often shared with us delightful stories about her parents, John Joseph and Mary Irene Mahoney, her three brothers and a sister, and their children.

After Catholic Grade School and High School in Troy, New York, Sister Irene studied at St. Joseph’s College in Emmitsburg, Maryland, graduating with a degree in Bachelor of Arts.

She entered Maryknoll in September 1945 and was professed in 1948. Soon after, Sister was assigned to Manila in 1948 and began her teaching career. Successively, she worked in school administration and as community superior in the Muslim area of Dulawan in the Mindanao Island, Maryknoll College in Manila and again taught in a high school in Lupon, Mindanao.

After Congregational Service at our Maryknoll Center as secretary in Admissions and the Personnel Department in 1978, Sister returned to the Philippines in the 1970s, and worked as Regional Secretary for the Maryknoll Fathers in Davao. Working closely with them, she shared their concern for the most impoverished of the poor, the indigent handicapped, helping them get artificial limbs.

Sister Irene moved naturally into a plan of two other Maryknoll Sisters to start Our Lady of Victory Training Center for handicapped youth in Davao City. It began in 1981 in a rented house to take care of 3 indigent, severely disabled young men. Sister Irene’s enthusiasm and capacity for hard work contributed greatly in making it become a dynamic center for the whole of Mindanao, the second biggest island in the Philippines. Working closely with the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, the center has since cared for more than 5,000 handicapped persons. It is often called the ‘House of Joy.’ Sister’s generosity and joy made it happen.

Besides helping in surgical and medical rehabilitation, Sister Irene gave great emphasis to education to break through the cycle of poverty most are caught in. She also developed Vocational Workshops to help the newly rehabilitated find joy in developing their unrecognized talents.

Those of us who were privileged to live with Sister Irene during the last 13 years know that the Eucharist was the center of her life. She spent hours daily before the Blessed Sacrament. She loved the Scriptures, the Divine Office, and the Rosary.

Sister Irene often spent hours on Recollection Days at the nearby Carmelite Convent Chapel. On July 16th this past week, our choir of handicapped residents sang at this chapel on the occasion of the Fiesta celebration of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Bishop Camino who was officiating requested of the large congregation, prayers for our Sister Irene, who we knew was seriously ill. As our handicapped sang “Our Father… Thy Kingdom come…” we thought how fitting it would be for our Sister Irene to be this day with God in Paradise!

We welcome Irene’s family and Fr. Bill Galvin, our Maryknoll friend and brother who was in mission in the Philippines for many years. Bill will lead us in the Eucharistic Liturgy of the Resurrection this morning. With him to concelebrate are fellow Maryknollers: Fathers Gerry Nagle, Joe Croghan, and Bill LaRousse. Also here is Maryknoll Brother Joe Dowling, who worked with Sister Irene at Our Lady of Victory Training Center.

In this Eucharist, let us re-member with all those whom she touched through her life and work, especially her former students, faculty members, the handicapped youth, and their families, in gratitude for the 48 years in Maryknoll and for more than 40 years of dedicated mission in the Philippines. Let us also rejoice with Irene who is reunited with the God who called her through Maryknoll whom she loved deeply. This woman, this sister of ours was in love with God, and in love with the people. In late 1948, she wrote to Mother Columba upon arriving in Manila: “It’s grand to be here. I know I shall love the Philippines.”