Sister Mary Francis Connell, MM

Born: May 29, 1904
Entered: October 15, 1928
Died: May 12, 1991

“I come to do your Will, O Lord” and “Love is the fulfilling of The Law.”

On Sunday, the 12th of May, Mother’s Day, at 12:40 in the afternoon in our Maryknoll Nursing Home, Sister Mary Frances Connell gave her life back to God. She was ready and well prepared after many long months of illness. That morning as she awaited her last visit with relatives, a Sister friend reminded her of all the good she had done during her life in mission; she responded with a smile and “God bless you.” She checked her watch a couple of times and when everything was in order, with her family at her side – the perfect time, she smiled and died. How beautiful the moment of passing from this life to the next! Today those who loved her mourn her loss as we celebrate her life.

Mary Frances Connell was born on May 29, 1904 in County Kerry, Ireland. She was one of eight children of John O’Connell and Mary Shea. As a young woman she emigrated to the United States, living and working in New London, Connecticut and Boston, Massachusetts. She became a naturalized citizen in 1930.

Mary Frances Connell entered Maryknoll, October 15, 1928 from Boston, Massachusetts. At Reception she received the name of Sister Mary Joanna. She made her Final Vows on January 6, 1934 at the Maryknoll Center. She was a member of the First Canonical Profession Group in 1931. On that occasion, Mother Mary Joseph wanted to have a special celebration as a tribute to those first women who came to Maryknoll. So that year the group of novices made their Profession on January 6, Foundation Day, rather than June 6. But after Profession they had to remain in the Novitiate until June when assignments were made.

Sister Mary Frances was assigned to Hawaii in 1935. She went to St. Augustine’s Convent and School at Waikiki. While there she took education courses at the University of Hawaii, and did catechetical work in the parish and tutoring in the school. She was always ready to give of herself in service to others and was well respected and appreciated. In 1947, along with other Maryknoll Sisters, Sister Mary Frances was assigned to the Diamond Head Convent. She was named Superior and served Bookkeeper and secretary to Bishop Sweeney. Sister administered the Bishop’s residence with great  efficiency and dignity, always as a proper Irish lady. She remained there until 1968. From 1968 to 1971 she was re-assigned to St. Augustine’s Convent and parish where she was totally involved in Religious Education and Pastoral Assistance, which also included working with the hearing impaired.

In 1972, Sister Mary Frances did pastoral/theological studies in San Antonio, Texas and received a Certificate in Religious Education from the lncarnate Word College. That same year she worked at Holy Family Parish in Honolulu, being responsible for preschool children and did tutoring in the parochial school. She continued this work until she retired in 1984. Even in retirement Sister Mary Frances remained very active by volunteering at the Catholic Social Service Agency in Honolulu.

In 1988 she had planned to come to the Center for her 60th Anniversary with the other members of her group but, for health reasons she could not be part of the Celebration. Mary Frances came later in July. She was assigned to the Center in April 1989 and because she needed additional care she was admitted to our Nursing Home on July 28, 1989.

Mary Frances was in mission over 50 years in Hawaii. Twenty years of her Hawaiian mission were lived out at Diamond Head. These long years of service speak to us of her faithfulness. She continued to be “in mission” through her prayer ministry for El Salvador while in the Nursing Home. She was known as a warm, friendly and cooperative person and always ready to respond to the needs of others, eager to be at peace and in harmony with others.

We come together to celebrate Mary Frances’ readiness to respond to God’s call today as she did upon entering Maryknoll.

“I come to do your Will, O Lord.”

Then, she gave her life to mission in love and service. Now, she sees God face to face and understands that –

“Love is the fulfilling of The Law.”

Let us rejoice with Mary Frances!

We welcome and offer our deepest sympathy to Sister Mary Frances’ family and friends. We thank our Maryknoll Father Mike Duggan who is here with us to celebrate the Eucharist of The Resurrection.