Carmelite Sisters Remember Their Foundress, Now Venerable

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She will be memorialized in history as the foundress of the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm. However, the sisters who had the privilege of knowing the now Venerable Mother Mary Angeline Teresa McCrory, O.Carm., warmly remember her as a kind, spiritual woman who saw Christ in all the people for whom she cared.

Pope Benedict XVI declared Mother Angeline venerable June 28. The Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm conduct 17 nursing homes, assisted and independent living facilities in the United States and one in Ireland. Three of the homes are in the Archdiocese of New York: St. Patrick’s Home for the Aged in the Bronx; Mary Manning Walsh in Manhattan and Carmel Richmond Nursing Home on Staten Island.

Mother Angeline founded the order to care for the elderly of all economic levels. The sisters care for those needing skilled nursing, short-term rehab and end-of-life care. In the words of Mother Angeline, “Our apostolate is not only to staff and operate up-to-date homes for the aged, but as religious it is to bring Christ to every old person under our care. Bringing Christ means giving them his compassion, his interest, his loving care and his warmth morning, noon and night. It means inspiring the lay people who work with us, to give the same type of loving care.”

Mother Angeline served as superior general of the sisters from 1929 until 1978, when her health began to decline. At that time, she was named superior general emerita. Among the honors received by Mother Angeline were the Pro Ecclesiae Award, given by Pope John XXIII, and the Benemerenti Award, by Pope Paul VI.

Mother Angeline held a strong devotion to the Eucharist, loved the liturgy and praying before the Blessed Sacrament. Part of the charism passed down to the sisters from Mother Angeline, in addition to a love for Our Lady of Mount Carmel, is a love for the priesthood. Each Saturday, the sisters offer prayers for priests.

Mother Angeline died on her 91st birthday, Jan. 21, 1984. Her sainthood cause was introduced in the Diocese of Albany in 1989.

“My first impression of her was that she was very kind, and very interested in every single person she came into contact with,” said Sister Patricia Margaret Rawdon, O. Carm., who is the coordinator of the Mother Angeline Society. The society is in charge of promoting Mother Angeline’s cause for canonization. Sister Patricia knew Mother Angeline personally—she was a novice living at St. Teresa’s Motherhouse in Germantown in the Diocese of Albany when Mother Angeline served as superior general.

“She truly believed that when we are caring for the elderly, we are caring for Christ himself. She instilled that in all the sisters,” Sister Patricia said.

Mother Angeline was born in Mountjoy, County Tyrone, Ireland and raised in Scotland. She was baptized Bridget Teresa McCrory. At 19, she entered the Little Sisters of the Poor in France. In 1915, she was sent to the United States and served in the Bronx. In 1929, with a blessing from Cardinal Hayes and permission from Rome, Mother Angeline and six other sisters began the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm, a new community dedicated to caring for the elderly.

Just days after the news was received that Mother Angeline’s cause had advanced, the members of the Cause and Charism Commission that meets throughout the year gathered at the motherhouse in Albany for a regularly scheduled meeting. Father Mario Esposito, O. Carm., vice postulator of the cause, celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving in Mother Angeline’s old bedroom, which is now a chapel.

Sister Patrick Michael Kane, O. Carm., is administrator of St. Patrick’s Home in the Bronx, where 13 sisters serve. She called Mother Angeline “a wonderful religious woman.”

The work of those serving at the nursing home continues to live out the mission of Mother Angeline, Sister Patrick Michael said. Upon hearing the news, the department heads and sisters at the home held a celebration on the premises, in St. Joseph’s Hall. “The news was wonderful. It was well deserved,” she added.

As a young volunteer at St. Patrick’s Home, Sister Kevin Patricia Lynch, O. Carm., briefly met Mother Angeline at a ceremony. “She met with all the young girls who were volunteering at the time,” she said, adding, “There was something charismatic about her. She had a way to draw people to her.”

Sister Kevin Patricia now serves as assistant administrator of St. Patrick’s Home in the Bronx and as prioress of the sisters in the Bronx. Like many of the other sisters, she knew Mother Angeline while she was a postulant and novice. She said Mother Angeline greatly affected how the sisters interact with those for whom they care.

“Mother always felt that it was important to reach out and clasp the hand of an aged person,” she said. “It was important to have that human touch, that kindness. She would stress that if she were here today.”

Hearing the news of Mother Angeline being declared venerable was “a very moving time,” Sister Kevin Patricia said. “It was just wonderful news and just conjures up so many wonderful memories of mother and all that she did to try to improve the lives of the elderly.”

She concluded, “Mother was always someone who you felt very comfortable greeting. She just had a very warm approach. That is why I think so many were attracted to her, and so many wanted to be one of her daughters in Carmel.”

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