sister mary francina keane


January 22, 1917 - February 23, 2011

Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength,
They shall mount up on high like eagles,
They shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint.
(Psalm 40)

Sister Mary Francina Keane waited for the Lord faithfully and patiently for several years, as she lived out her elder years at Nazareth Living Center. Though not able to communicate with her sisters or her caregivers, she, no doubt, spoke much in her heart to her God as she "waited for" God's final call to her peacefully and gently. That ultimate summons occurred on February 23.

Sister Francina was born in St. Louis on January 22, 1917. Her parents, John and Bridget McMahon Keane, had come from Cross-Corriganholt Co. in Clare, Ireland to begin a new life in the United States. But they never forgot their Irish heritage and were sure to share it with their children. Besides singing the Irish songs, they loved to dance. Look at any pictures of parties at NLC and you are sure to see S. Francina joining the merriment by dancing.

Baptized Mary, she grew up with a great devotion to the Blessed Mother. This devotion, combined with her great love for her sister Frances, prompted her to ask for the name Mary Francina at her reception. She was happily accorded her wish on March 19, 1936. She would have celebrated 75 years as a Sister of St. Joseph this year.

After her first profession in March 1938, she took the train to Michigan, excited about teaching primary grades at St. Paul's School in Negaunee. A year later she returned to St. Louis to teach at St. Bridget School, where she stayed for five years before going to Nativity School in Chicago. Recognized as an excellent primary teacher, S. Francina was asked to mentor other primary teachers. How fortunate then for those mentored teachers at Sacred Heart in Shawano, Notre Dame in Wellston, and Sts. John and James in Ferguson.

While she was at Sts. John and James a need arose for a solid, competent intermediate grade teacher. With her experience and expertise, S. Francina took on this task, glad for the opportunity to follow some of the same students from primary through their intermediate years. Parents, too, were grateful that their children had S. Mary Francina as their teacher.

After two years at St. Rita's School in St. Louis, in 1966 she "caught the itch" to travel. She moved to Denver and taught at St. Catherine's School from 1966 to 1975. For anyone who has lived in Denver, the draw to the mountains is irresistible, and so it was for S. Francina. Happy to be living in the time of change and new opportunities, she visited with family and friends more freely. The time was fruitful and fulfilling for her.

Her years in Denver over, she traveled once more, this time to Little Flower School in Mobile, Ala. A strict, but loving teacher (she took her teaching seriously), S. Francina is remembered with love by her former third grade students. They recall how she always remembered their birthdays, even though they might occur in the summer, by placing a "goodie" in their desks on their special days. She finished her active teaching ministry in Waco, TX, after which she "slowed down" and did volunteer work at St. Anthony's and at Carondelet in St. Louis. She moved to NLC in January 1995.

Always prayerful and cheerful, S. Francina was a gentle model for many. Her patient waiting at the end of her life has led her into eternal happiness. May she rest in peace.

S. Rita Louise Huebner
S. Kathleen Karbowski

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