Sister Xavier Marie Shalvey, MM

Born: February 23, 1904
Entered: December 8, 1934
Died: December 8, 1995

We today celebrate the life and death of our Sister Xavier Marie Shalvey who left us on Friday, December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, exactly 61 years to the day of her entrance into Maryknoll. She has now joined other Maryknollers in that land where all pain and loneliness cease, where no tears flow and where sorrow is no more.

Sister Xavier Marie loved teaching. She taught in Dairen (now Dalian) in China’s northeast from 1937 to 1941. This part of her teaching career was cut short by the Japanese war which soon found her interned for two years in Shanghai. She was repatriated to the United States in 1943. In 1946, she took on a new teaching assignment in the Bronx, New York. Later she was sent to teach in San Juan Capistrano and Los Angeles, California and finally at Rogers College. She was a devoted teacher, a crackerjack mathematician and she loved her students and they knew it. One former Japanese student, who is now a successful scientist, wrote to her recently after 35 years. In his letter he says, “.. .certainly a part of my experiences and success are due to your effort and encouragement … thank you for the time you spent with me.” She was singularly successful in California with a Bugle and Drum Corps, a group of young students she so carefully trained that they managed to capture first place in all the many competitions they entered, even at the state level. But Rogers College was, without doubt, the most satisfying assignment of her entire Maryknoll life.

Helen Shalvey was born on February 23, 1904 in Richmond Hill, Long Island, New York. She had three sisters and one brother who became a Passionist priest. They have all preceded her in death. She graduated from Our Lady of Wisdom Academy, in New York and she received her degree in Mathematics in 1933 from St. John’s University, also in New York. She entered Maryknoll on December 8, 1934. She was professed at the Center on June 30, 1937 and made her final profession in Dairen, China.

In her later years she realized she also loved to serve the sick. At the age of 76 she became a nurse’s aide so that she could be of help to the Community. From 1992 to September 1995, she little by little experienced physical weakness being moved into Assisted Living and being occasionally admitted to Residential Care. In September 1995, it was clear she needed permanent Residential Care and so she was transferred to our nursing Facility where she died.

But who was this woman in heart and mind that we remember and honor at this Mass of Resurrection? To me, she was a woman of faith and one about whom Jesus could well have said what he said of Nathaniel, “a person without guile.” There was no pretense in her. What she said was what she thought, always expressed clearly and unadorned. She was a woman of definite likes and dislikes, but she also had music in her heart, music not always heard by others. Her keen, logical mind made her see through things others might not so readily see. This was for her both a source of joy and of pain.

God who spares none of us many small dyings along our life’s journey did not spare her either. Her many deaths came all along life’s way and although she did not always relish these dyings, she recognized their meaning. She understood them as an essential part of a life worth living. Each of her many dyings gave her one more opportunity to peer through the window of eternity and helped her fulfill her heart’s desire which she had summed up on her entrance day. She had come she said, “to serve God more perfectly, to save her soul, and with God’s help, to save others.” She has now experienced her final death, one which opens for her the gates of eternal joy and life. Dear Sister, may you rest in peace.

We wish to extend our deepest sympathy to Sister’s family who are with us today. Her niece and nephew, two of the people she loved most deeply. Every visit from them brought smiles, appreciation and new bursts of life. Also, their sons are here with us and Helen’s sister-in law.

And now let us welcome, Father Edward Manning, M.M., as celebrant of our Liturgy of Resurrection for Sister Xavier Marie.