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Meet an Irish-American nun who was an advocate for the aged in New York


Sr. Helena | Youtube

Philip Kosloski - published on 08/27/17

"If you have to fail, let it be on the side of kindness. Be kinder than kindness itself to the old people."

Born on January 21, 1893, in Ireland, Brigid Teresa McCrory pursued her calling to the religious life at an early age. At 19 she left home for France and joined the new religious community called the Little Sisters of the Poor.

The Little Sisters of the Poor had (and still have) the particular charism of caring for the elderly whom nobody else can care for. After Brigid’s profession of vows she became known as Sister Mary Angeline.

Sister Angeline was then sent to the United States to the Little Sisters of the Poor in New York. By 1926 she was named superior of the community in the Bronx. However, as she tried to minister to the elderly in the United States, she began to desire to serve the elderly in ways she felt more suited to the area.

Mother Angeline sought the guidance of Cardinal Patrick Hayes of New York. He encouraged her, recognizing that the elderly of his flock could be better served. Mother Angeline then sought permission from Rome and with six other sisters departed from the Little Sisters of the Poor to found a new community based on her spirituality and the methods of service she wanted to use.

A local group of Carmelite friars helped Mother Angeline, and by 1931 her new community was officially known as the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm.

During her life Mother Angeline was known for her extraordinary charity and hospitality. Bishop Howard Hubbard recalled how when he was a seminarian he visited the motherhouse and met Mother Angeline. He said she had a “magnetic personality,” and “treated [us] like the most important people in the world.” Bishop Hubbard added that, “I’ll always remember her for her palpable love of priests and her encouraging kindness to two lowly seminarians.”

Father Mario Esposito, the vice-postulator of her canonization cause, further comments on her hospitality, explaining how she taught her sisters, “that the elderly should be welcomed and treated as if, first, they were our own parents, and then, welcomed as if we were welcoming Christ Himself.”

One of her best-known sayings was, “If you have to fail, let it be on the side of kindness. Be kinder than kindness itself to the old people.”

Mother Angeline died on January 21, 1984, and soon after a commission formed to recognize her extraordinary holiness. Pope Benedict XVI declared her “venerable” in 2012 and prior to that in 2009 a possible miracle was sent to the Vatican in hopes that it would pave the way to her beatification.

See more in our series on the Saints of the United States.

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