Sister M. Eulalia Harrington, MM
Born: September 23, 1898
Entered: February 1, 1924
Died: March 18, 1986
The death of our Sister M. Eulalia Harrington in the Maryknoll Nursing Home on March 18th typified a life of quiet, unassuming readiness to embrace the will of a loving God to whom she had been vowed for 62 years. As we celebrate this morning Sister’s entrance into eternity, we praise and thank God for the testimony of her life, so ordinary in its details, yet lived so extraordinarily well.
In 1898 (September 23rd), Lillian Mary Harrington was born in Oakland, California. After her basic education she took a short commercial course and worked 5½ years for the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company as a telephone operator, biller and typist. Her older sister, Rose, had entered Maryknoll in 1920, so when Lillian announced four years later that she, too, felt called to join the small group of women dedicated to mission it was not a new idea for the family. It probably was a surprise to her companions at work, for Lillian rarely spoke about herself. The company gave her a gold star pin as a token of appreciation for work well-done. Lillian said goodbye to her parents, Charles and Rose Ellen Doody Harrington, her three brothers and sister, and packed her bag for the cross continental trip to New York. It was a journey she was to make several times. Most of Sister Eulalia’s religious life was spent back in California, but it is probably safe to say that during this first trip she dreamed of serving God in far away places with exotic names.
At Maryknoll, Lillian was reunited with her sister, Rose – Sister Mary Raphael – and began her novitiate feeling very blessed to be part of the Maryknoll family. Part-time work in the Seminary pantry and the stencil department of the Field AFar Magazine rounded out the more academic side of novitiate training. Those aspects, with their underpinnings of solid spirituality and daily community living brought forth qualities unknown till then and called on the generous use of her practical talents.
In 1926, as was customary, Sister M. Eulalia signed the form requesting permission to make her First Profession of Vows. This form included the statement, “I ask it, knowing that I may never be sent to the missions and I wish to go on with the intention of working cheerfully and happily wherever I am assigned.” This commitment, celebrated in the presence of Mother Mary Joseph and Father James Anthony Walsh, was lived out with the unquestioning obedience and joyful service that characterized Sister Eulalia’ s entire life as a Maryknoll Sister.
After an assignment for two years as Guest Mistress at Bethany House, Sister Eulalia spent a total of 47 years in California: in Los Angeles, Los Altos, and Monrovia, doing laundry, part-time teaching, kitchen work, sorting stamps and as librarian.
One day in August, 1967, when Sister Eulalia was 69 years old, she received an unexpected letter from Mother Mary Coleman asking her to accept an assignment to Hawaii. She wrote in answer: “Oh, what a surprise… I am delighted… I will go anyplace you want me to go.” The next month she was on board the SS. CALIFORNIA and wrote, “I know it’s silly, but I still can’t believe I am really riding on the sea. Thank you for my assignment. I hope I will be useful where I am going.”
In Hawaii Sister’s cooking talents were put to good use and her wonderful contribution to community life was appreciated by all. When Sister Eulalia returned to the Motherhouse for furlough in 1969 another uprooting awaited her. Mother Coleman called on her to respond to a need at the Valley Park, Missouri novitiate, which, Mother wrote, “requires a lovely, dedicated spirit as is your own… Yours has been a lifetime of generous, wholehearted service…” Once again, the reply was, “Mother, I will be happy to go.”
Not long after, Valley Park was closed and Sister Eulalia returned to Monrovia where she worked in the library. She remained there until 1981 when it was necessary to bring her back to the Center for skilled nursing care.
When some of the Sisters who had lived and worked with Sister Eulalia were asked to describe her, the responses were all similar: very quiet and devout, a hard worker who would do anything for you; she had a happy and joyous spirit that made a difference in the house, a ready smile and good sense of humor, appreciative of others, a gentle, generous person; an unsung heroine, fun loving and affectionate, enchanted by the beauties of nature, child-like in her relationship with God and with her Sisters in community; a woman in whom there was no guile – a good Maryknoll Sister. From one who cared for her in her last months: “She was a darling. We all loved her.”
And so, the example of this extraordinarily ordinary life makes us reflect on how our own lives are lived. We rejoice that Sister Eulalia enjoys the fullness of life, together again with her family and all Maryknollers who went before her. May her quiet joy and the peace of her loving God be with us all.
We welcome our Maryknoll brother, Father John Harper, who joins us this morning in our Eucharistic celebration of remembrance and thanksgiving.