Sister Mary Eugene Heerey, MM

Born: July 7, 1893
Entered: October 15, 1926
Died: October 5, 1979

As we gather together this morning in Eucharistic celebration of the new life begun by our Sister Mary Eugene Heerey, I would like to share with you a thought written by Mother Mary Joseph on a holy card for Sister, at the time of her first vows. It says:

“Dear Sister M. Eugene,

My loving message for you today is simply this: never fail to remember that your whole life is your novitiate for heaven. May God bless you!

Your, M.M.J.”

Today, as we reflect for a moment on the life and death of our Sister, we know with confidence that her life—long “novitiate” of 86 years of loving service and total commitment to God and the mission of his Son, is now complete and that she is now enjoying that for which she so well prepared herself — the fullness of life with the Father forever.

Mary Ellen Heerey was born on July 7, 1893 in Aberdeen, South Dakota. The family later moved to Wisconsin and it was from there that Mary Ellen entered Maryknoll on October 15, 1926. She had by that time obtained both a Teacher’s Certificate and stenographic training. At Reception she received the name Sister Mary Eugene. She made her first vows in 1929 and was soon after assigned to Hawaii where she made her final vows three years later.

Sister Mary Eugene spent over 20 years teaching in our schools in Hawaii, a spot which she loved and a ministry which she cherished. Her students, long after they left her classroom, used to remember her regularly with flowers on feast days and Christmas and Easter – a sign of their love and esteem. She also worked several years in promotional and secretarial positions, and in the Sacristy at the Center and at Valley Park. At 75, she finally retired from full-time teaching, at which time she said, “It has been a joy right up to the last day.” That was in 1968. She was then asked to participate in developing ideas for a program of apostolic works for our senior Sisters at Valley Park, and she spent a few years there engaged among other things in an adult literacy program, and in the Sacristy. She had many talents – she painted beautifully, and sewed extremely well.

Sister Mary Eugene’s zest for life and warm heart, endeared her to all who knew her. Even during her last illness at Phelps Memorial Hospital, she touched the nurses who cared for her, with her humor and her joyful, generous spirit.

On the night she died, Sisters Anne Callahan and Miriam Francis Perlewitz had gone to Phelps for a visit. Shortly after they arrived, Sister died around 08:00 p.m., October 5, 1979. She knew her Sisters were there and was holding their hands tightly till almost the last moment. After she died, the Sisters prayed over her body and sang the “SALVE” for all of us.

Sister Mary Eugene wrote in 1966: “What a glorious time in history to be alive; but what a terrific responsibility each one must feel as we see the world smaller and nearer and nearer to each individual soul, so sacred and dear to God.”

Sister Mary Eugene’s missionary spirit of love for each person and for all the world continues to inspire us. We know that our Sister Mary Eugene “so dear to God” is now with Him and we joyfully say that today for her is also a “glorious time” to die to this life and to begin anew.

We welcome Sister Mary Eugene’s family and friends, and through them offer our prayerful sympathy.

The co-celebrants of the Mass of the Resurrection being offered today, October 8th, 1979, are Maryknoll Fathers Daniel P. Driscoll and John M. Martin. Let us remember Sister in the Eucharistic Liturgy as we continue to pray for her peace and happiness in the Lord.