Sister Veronica Marie Carney, MM

Born: October 8, 1907
Entered: October 15, 1928
Died: August 5, 2002

She should have a child-like spirit; an abiding love of God; devotion to our Lady; burning zeal for the extension of God’s kingdom on earth. . . This should be crowned by a lovely, joyous spirit, a ready smile reflecting the conscious presence of God in her soul and the tender solicitude she feels for all. These mark the true Maryknoll spirit. These words of Mother Mary Joseph from today’s first reading are beautifully reflected in the lifelong commitment to mission of our Sister Veronica Marie Carney.

Sister Veronica Marie died peacefully in the Residential Care Facility of the Maryknoll Sisters Center, Maryknoll, NY, on August 5, 2002. She was ninety-four years of age and had been a Maryknoll Sister for seventy-three years.

Helen Veronica Carney was born October 8, 1907 in Charlestown, MA to Timothy and Julia Crowley Carney. She had two brothers and one sister. Helen attended Mt. St. Joseph Academy in Brighton, MA, graduating in 1924. Following high school graduation, she was employed as a clerk and stenographer in the Massachusetts Civil Service Department in the State House, Boston, until 1928.

Helen entered Maryknoll on October 15, 1928 at Maryknoll, NY. At Reception, she received the religious name of Sr. Veronica Marie, a name that she would retain for the rest of her life. She made her First Profession of Vows January 6, 1931 at Maryknoll and her Final Profession of Vows on the same date in 1934 in Fushun, Manchuria.

Sr. Veronica Marie was assigned to Fushun, Manchuria in 1931 where she did catechetical work. It was just two months after arrival and while they were still studying language that Sr. Veronica Marie and three other Maryknoll Sisters were given responsibility for the formation of eight aspirants. These young women would eventually form a local religious community, the Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Sister Veronica Marie’s relationship with the Sisters would continue for the next seventy years. In 1933, Sister Veronica Marie went to Dairen to serve as secretary to Msgr. Raymond Lane, M.M., for one year. Returning to Fushun the next year, she served as local superior of the Maryknoll Sisters and novice mistress for the Sacred Heart Sisters. She continued in this ministry until 1941 when she was interned and eventually returned to the U.S. on the M.S. Gripsholm in 1943.

While in the U.S., Sister Veronica Marie worked in Mission Education and Promotion at Maryknoll. In January 1947, she returned to Manchuria. By June of that year, the Sisters were aware of reports of armed conflict all around Fushun. She described the trenches that were dug all around the city as part of the defense system. All Maryknollers were evacuated from Fushun toward the end of June. Sr. Veronica Marie wrote: It was a sad departure for us. Coming back last January, we realized more than ever all that the native Sisters have been through since 1941 and now we have to leave them again. Our 26 aspirants were sent to their homes on June 7 and our novitiate was broken up on June 16. How we hated to see the novices go. As I write this, we are sitting in the train waiting for several miles of track to be repaired so we can continue on our journey. It doesn’t seem possible for us to be on our way again.

By September of 1947, the Sisters were able to return to Fushun. They were forced to evacuate again at the end of the year. In January 1948, Sr. Veronica Marie wrote from Mukden: We are just waiting now at the French convent for word as to when the plane is to come. I am grateful that we were able to return to Fushun for these past few months. It was so much harder leaving this time though, much more so than before. Our native Sisters were very brave. Yet we don’t know what we are leaving them to face and this makes leaving so difficult.

Sr. Veronica Marie was assigned to Japan in April 1948. She served first in Kyoto and later as Regional Superior from 1952-58. In 1959, Sister was assigned to Taiwan. She worked first as the director of a hostel for girls from the rural areas who came to Miaoli to study. Later, she served as secretary to Maryknoll Bishop Kupfer in Taichung. Returning to Maryknoll for Renewal in 1968, she was asked to serve as secretary to the Maryknoll Society’s General Council. Sister Veronica Marie continued in this position until 1971 when she returned to Taiwan. She was the secretary for the Maryknoll Society Regional Superior and did catechetical work as a volunteer in her free time.

In 1988, exactly forty years after Sr. Veronica Marie had to leave Manchuria, she set out on a return visit to what she described as “my favorite mission.” She wrote: We walked out the door of the airport to be greeted by my Sisters with Fr. Chin, the pastor. Four of the ten Sisters living in Fushun had come to meet us and what a joy it was to see them, happy, smiling, welcoming, looking only a little bit older than that day forty years ago when we had to leave them. In the one hour taxi ride from Shen Yang to Fushun, there were no silent moments as many questions went back and forth. The area had greatly changed in 40 years. Roads had been built and factories were everywhere. It was a joy to see the zeal and enthusiasm of our Sisters. There was no sadness and moaning because of the awful times they had passed through. If one had ever any doubts of the providence of God, those doubts would certainly be wiped away on seeing this little group of Sisters, persevering through all the hardship years and with all that they have suffered. It was one of the great joys of my life to be with them so many years ago and an even greater joy to see them now, forty years later.

In 1993, at the age of eighty-five and after having spent the greater part of sixty-two years in mission in China, Japan and Taiwan, Sr. Veronica Marie made the decision to return to Maryknoll for retirement. On the application form for retirement at the Center, one of the questions was: How do you see yourself being in mission during this time? Sister Veronica Marie replied: I am a Maryknoll Sister. What else could I be but a missioner? She continued her lifelong commitment to mission during her years of retirement at Maryknoll. All of us who were at Maryknoll last June, remember her joy in welcoming Bishop Pius Jin Pei Xian, Bishop of the Diocese of Llioling. Sister had known him since he was a seminarian and young priest ordained by Bishop James E. Walsh.

We welcome our Maryknoll brother, Fr. John Moran, who will preside at this Eucharistic Liturgy of Christian Burial as we lovingly remember and thank God for the life of our Sister Veronica Marie.