sister mary concordia hennessy

October 21, 2914—March 27, 2013

Loving and joyful, faithful and compassionate

For all of her long life—98 years—Sister Mary Concordia Hennessy loved much and faithfully served the God to whom she had dedicated her life for 80 years. That is quite a feat! It was her gentleness, her openness to sharing herself, her great love and loyalty to family, her willingness to be for God and others wherever she was missioned that attracted persons to her. 

Born in St. Louis to Thomas and Catherine Hennessy, she was named Catherine Mary. This loving Catholic family, Irish to the core, nurtured her vocation. She had one sister, Florence, and two brothers, Thomas and John. Catherine attended Rosati-Kain High School and there met the Sisters of St. Joseph who attracted her to their way of life. So, after graduation in 1932, she joined them and was received as a novice on March 19, 1933, taking the name Sister Mary Concordia.

As was custom for most Sisters of St. Joseph, S. Concordia began as an elementary school teacher, but later, beginning in 1950, she was assigned as a secondary English teacher at her alma mater, Rosati-Kain. For the next 20 years or so, she entered the world of high school students at Rosati-Kain, St. Louis; St. Francis de Sales, Denver; and the two St. Joseph’s Academies, Green Bay and St. Louis respectively. She taught English, citizenship, American history and religion.

S. Concordia made it fun to go to class, and she impressed many. Chris Obermeier, a former student of hers at St. Joseph’s Academy in St. Louis, said, “What a powerful teacher she was. I owe whatever writing skills I acquired to her great ability to encourage and teach so gently.” Another former pupil, Mary Parks, wrote, “She was kind, consistent, understanding, reliable, solid and worthy of confidence—all of that with a quiet, non-flamboyant manner.” Just recently, a former boarder at St. Joseph’s Academy in Green Bay, reconnected with her.

A significant contribution to collaboration and cooperation happened when S. Concordia was co-principal at Rosati-Kain High School in the mid 60’s. At that time the convents of the Sisters of St. Joseph and the School Sisters of Notre Dame merged into a new archdiocesan facility to house both communities who taught at the school. She and her Notre Dame counterpart strongly encouraged the planners to keep in mind the welfare of the sisters when constructing the new building. Her acceptance of others enabled her to help both communities of sisters to live and work together as they occupied the same quarters.

In 1971, recognizing her love for the community and the depth of her commitment to it, the province leaders asked S. Concordia to be part of the Renewal Team. For the next five years, then, she traveled the province. It was not an easy time. In the early 1970s, religious life was a mixture of challenge and opportunity. However, amid the diverse opinions and questions, what some would call turmoil, hers was always a loving voice. Never pushy, but with gentle wisdom, she blended compassion and humor in dealing with the joys and tensions of community life, and encouraged all of us to reflect on the gift we are to each other and to the church.

For two years (1976-1978) S. Concordia assumed the role of assistant resident care coordinator for the Frontenac community in St. Louis. The last years of active service were spent at St. Joseph’s Academy in St. Louis. As a volunteer, she advised the girls in the school’s resource center.

S. Concordia, at age 87, moved to Nazareth Living Center. She spent her time praying, visiting and enjoying the company of her many relatives who celebrated with her, her many significant milestones, the latest being her 80th anniversary as a Sister of St. Joseph. This large family and friends’ group filled the community room at NLC on March 17, happily sharing memories and stories. She did not wait too long after that celebration to meet her God face to face. She died ten days later, fittingly during Holy Week. May she rest in peace.

S. Rita Louise Huebner

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