Sister Mary Fabian O'Handley, MM

Born: December 1, 1886
Entered: January 5, 1922
Died: December 21, 1972

On Thursday, December 21, 1972, our Sister Fabian O’Handley entered Eternal Life. Sister Fabian had celebrated her golden jubilee of entrance this past summer. For most of her long life in Maryknoll she was a “baker of bread.” There never seemed any doubt in her mind that this mode of service was a part of building the kingdom of God. This came through in a simple statement from her a few weeks before she died, “I wanted to make the students strong for the missions.”

At the wake and the Mass of the Resurrection held at Bethany on Saturday, December 23rd, many of “her boys” and former students were there. More than once a Maryknoll Father was heard remarking to relatives and friends, “We were all her students. She taught us to bake bread.” Father Irwin Nugent was the chief celebrant of the Mass and others among “her boys” who concelebrated were: Father Joseph Glynn, Father Quinn Weitzel, and Father William McIntire, members of the Maryknoll Fathers’ new General Council, and Father John J. McCormack, former Superior General. Many other Maryknoll Fathers concelebrated or were present for the Mass, along with Sister Fabian’s nephew and his wife, other friends, and our own Sisters.

On the bulletin board at Bethany, a color snapshot very characteristic of Sister Fabian’s life was posted. The scene is in a kitchen and Sister Fabian is opening a tin of cookies with Brother Aloysius sitting in a nook behind her, glancing hopefully over his shoulder at the cookies that are about to be set before him.

Sister Fabian (Margaret O’Handley) was born December 1886 in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada. She entered Marylcnoll January 5, 1922, made her First Profession August 4, 1924, and her Final Profession three years later. In 1948 she became a naturalized U.S. citizen. Sister’s first mission was to Los Angeles in 1924. From 1926 until 1964 she was stationed at the Venard, Motherhouse, St. Teresa’s and Bethany. Over fifteen of these years were spent in the bakery at the Venard and over twenty years in the bakery at the Seminary kitchen. In 1964 she went to the Bronx where she stayed a short time. Yet in 1965, when she was almost 79 years old, she wrote to Mother Mary Coleman to be on the lookout to find for “Sister Fabian any place to work with any Sister who would like help in her kitchen. Please Mother try.”

It is fitting that Sister Fabian, to whom “the bread of life” had so much meaning, should be celebrating this Christmas in the “City of Bread.” Let us remember Sister Fabian in our prayers.