Sister Michael Damien O'Connor, MM

Born: August 14, 1910
Entered: October 5, 1946
Died: September 6, 2008

We welcome all who are here today and especially express our condolences to Sister’s family, her good friends here with us, and those she loved in the Philippines and in Bangladesh.

On Saturday, September 6, 2008, at 9:30 a.m. in Residential Care IV, Sr. Michael Damien O’Connor quietly slipped into the arms of her waiting God. Praying with her was Sr. Rita Owczarek, who said to Sr. Susan Baldus, who had just entered the room, “I think Sister has stopped breathing.” Her breath of new life had begun.

Delia Mary O’Connor was born to Michael James and Bridget (Connolly) O’Connor, both of County Galway, Ireland, in Wellesley, Massachusetts on August 14, 1910. She was one of nine children, five girls and four boys.

Delia grew up in Wellesley, receiving the sacraments of Baptism, First Communion and Confirmation at St. John’s Church which was the family’s parish. The pastor there wrote a beautiful tribute of her when she applied to Maryknoll. After graduation in 1929 from Wellesley High, Delia attended Burdett College for a year, obtaining a diploma for completion of work required in the Stenography Department. Her father had died in 1924 at age 46. For nine years Delia worked at Poor’s Publishing Company until it merged with Standard Statistics, Inc., and moved to New York City. She then took a position as Assistant Town Clerk in Wellesley, volunteered as a promoter for the Society of the Propagation of the Faith, helped the Red Cross for which she received a Certificate of Appreciation, and was a faithful, long term Sunday CCD teacher. In between she visited the hospital to help wherever she could.

Delia was described by Poor’s Company as manifesting “perfect harmony in handling the mass of details” and of having the uncanny faculty of speed with accuracy, of being loyal, 100 percent punctual and industrious, and gaining the respect of other workers by a very likable personality. We all say yes to that!

Her acceptance to Maryknoll was delayed a year because the doctor examining her thought she needed to be built up. This brought a strong letter from the pastor listing her daily routine and assuring the General Council that Delia was a very healthy person! Still, she had to wait, and disappointed as she was, she did just that. Finally, on October 5, 1946, she entered at the Motherhouse. Delia received the name of Sister Michael Damien at Reception, a name she kept until death. She made her First Profession on April 6, 1949, at the Center and her Final Profession on the same date in 1952, in the Philippines.

Sister Michael Damien had been assigned to the Philippines in 1950 and while there was Assistant Superior in Lucena in 1954 and 1957. She returned to our Center in New York in 1966, serving in Treasury until 1978 and then went to work in our nursing home on the fourth floor. The following year she completed a course to become a Certified Nursing Assistant. Her choice was to work the night shift because she thought it important that a Sister be available to the very ill. Sister’s plan was to return to the Philippines, but when she was asked to extend her service on the fourth floor, she did. Upon completion of her service, however, it proved impossible for her to return to the Philippines because of the political situation there and the difficulty to obtain a visa. This was very disappointing to her.

In 1985 the Congregation took on a new commitment in Bangladesh and needed personnel. The Central Governing Board (CGB) approached Sister and asked if she would be willing to go. At that time she was 75 years of age and intermediately she said yes! Three of us from that CGB are here now (Sisters Imelda Bautista, Patricia Redmond and myself) and each of us remembers our concern about asking her and her totally enthusiastic response. We now know that those years of 1986-1995 for Sister were among her happiest. She worked in the Diocesan offices of Natural Family Planning doing English correspondence three days a week, served as Communicator for the Region in 1991, and cooked and cared for our Sisters and the Maryknoll Fathers, who worked out in the villages and came to Dhaka to rest and take care of things. Leaving Bangladesh was hard for her but failing health made it seem wise to return to New York.

Sister was assigned to the Main House Community September 12, 1997, and, as her health declined, moved to the Eden Community on January 1, 2004. Sister visited and prayed with the sick until her own health prevented her from doing so. She was known for her clever and cuddly stuffed animals, as well as other items, which she made for the bazaar. Sister Michael Damien was beloved by all who knew her and will be greatly missed. We thank her family for their support, our caregivers for their love and attention and her friends for their presence. To our God we commend her.

Today we welcome with gratitude Father Carroll Houle, M.M., our Maryknoll brother, who will celebrate the Liturgy of Christian Burial for Sister Michael Damien.