Sister Josephine Curran, MM

Born: February 1, 1909
Entered: December 7, 1938
Died: January 10, 1983

“I long to know the Lord Jesus… All things left behind, my arms outstretched – I run to meet his love and his promise of life.” – Philippians 3

Last Monday night, January 10th, brought the somewhat expected news that our Sister Josephine Mary Curran had gently slipped away to God in our Maryknoll Nursing Home. Sister had been failing steadily for several months and, during the past few days, we all realized that for her, heaven, with its joy and peace, was not far off. Sister Josephine had probably never read the Gitanjali of Rabindranath Tagore, the great poet and philosopher of India. Yet, I kept thinking of her recently while reflecting on this work again and thought how apropos so many of his beautiful words were to her humble life lived as a servant-seeker of God. Tagore’s 95th poem illustrates this and gives us a quiet insight into the unfathomable mystery of dying and death:

“I have got my leave – bid me farewell, my Sisters and Brothers I bow to you all and take my departure. Here I give back the keys of my door – and I give up all claims to my house. I only ask for last kind words from you. We were neighbors for long, but, I received more than I could give. Now, the day has dawned and the lamp that lit my dark corner is out. A summons has come – and I am ready for my journey, and, because I loved this life I know I shall love death as well.”

There is great faith implicit in those closing lines; and unquestioning faith in God was the pivot on which Sister Josephine’s life revolved and unfolded. It was faith and trust which enabled her to pass through the critical, lonely, and painful periods of her life with a sense of mission – of doing what she had to do. It was her deep faith that enabled her to do her arduous and often dull household tasks with a cheery, generous good humor, and admirable dispatch. “To work for God” she wrote when applying for entrance to Maryknoll, and she devoted 44 years in service of mission working for God through her beloved Maryknoll Community.

Josephine Curran was born February 1, 1909 in East Boston, Massachusetts. She was one of five daughters and seven sons born to John and Bridget Dalton Curran. Her father emigrated to the U.S. from County Down, Ireland, and her mother from Tipperary. Josephine was very proud of her family and Irish heritage. She loved to speak of her family and when they had need she tried to give her support. After finishing elementary school, Josephine attended East Boston High, and later took up work as a clerk in one of the local companies. In November 1938, Mother Mary Joseph received a letter from Josephine’s pastor, Father Thomas Garrahan, a loyal friend of Maryknoll, asking Mother to consider Josephine for entrance into the Maryknoll Sisters Community. Father wrote: “I am sending you one of our best… practical… of good sense… (she) cooperates and helps in all our parish activities. It has been her fond desire and ambition for some years back to become a Maryknoll Sister.” In those days, anyone Father Garrahan recommended was almost certain of acceptance by Mother. Josephine’s application was approved and on December 8, 1938 she came to Maryknoll. It was a bitter cold and dreary day, and I can still remember our group of 23 putting on the long, black postulant dress and soft veil, and following our Novice “angel” to the refectory to eat a Chinese meal with chopsticks! More fun than nourishment was had, and we often congratulated ourselves afterwards that we survived such an introduction to the “life of a missioner.” At Reception, June 30, 1939, Josephine was given her religious name “Mary Paul Joseph.” She made her first profession of vows on June 30, 1941 and pronounced her final vows on June 30, 1944.

The names of the congregational houses where Sister Josephine was assigned during the years 1942-1968, read like a litany of Maryknoll’s involvement in mission USA during those years: The Venard, St. Louis, Valley Park Novitiate, Topsfield Novitiate, Chicago, Stockton, St. Teresa’s and, in 1968, the Motherhouse. In all those places, Sister Josephine served generously and well in a variety of ways: cook, housekeeper, baker, gardener, laundry supervisor, and assistant infirmarian. Her lack of formal academic study sometimes worried her and she voiced the fear that she had nothing to offer. This fear was apparent in 1961 when she had a serious illness and was placed on a limited-duty rest cure. she worried about how the work would be done, and about the need for others to cover for her while she rested half a day. Her mission was to serve, and she was uneasy when the Lord asked her to rest a while. The gifts of the Spirit are many, and Sister Josephine never seemed to really appreciate the many and beautiful natural gifts of mind and heart that God had showered on her: uncommon common sense, generosity, good will, keen wit, and when not nervously strained, a lovely unaffected kindness – and that these were her special contribution and legacy to Maryknoll.

Josephine’s final illness is over and I conclude this brief reflection on sister’s life among us with another quotation from Tagor: “…all that I am, that I have, that I hope, and all my love, have ever flowed towards thee…”

Our Eucharistic Celebration offered this morning in loving memory of sister Josephine and in thanksgiving for the gift of her life to us all and to the church in mission. And we are happy to welcome as Celebrant of the Eucharist, the Reverend Robert E. Sheridan, of the Maryknoll Society.