May 28, 1932 – November 20, 2016
“I have become proficient in adapting to change,” Eileen Hegarty liked to say. Her list of ministries more than supports that claim. She transitioned with grace from full-time culinary service; to teaching 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th graders in Maryland, New York and Virginia; to health- and elder-care in a variety of settings. In addition, her life as teacher and nurse was frequently seasoned with ample dashes of local-community kitchen duty. Eileen was, you might say, a Jill of all trades.
She loved her Irish-born father, her true blue Philadelphian mother, and her four siblings. She was proud of each member of her family – particularly her mother, who served in Philadelphia’s Archdiocesan Marriage Tribunal. Her strong family background was an excellent preparation for religious-community life.
As a Golden Jubilarian, Eileen remembered how her vocation to religious life had been strongly influenced by two vowed religious. The first was a Sister of St. Joseph: Sr. Helen Anthony, Eileen’s 6th-grade teacher. Her other memorable mentor was a Sister of Notre Dame. Following grade school, Eileen enrolled at West Catholic Girls High School. There, she encountered Sr. Marie Charles (Catherine Mary O’Malley), her sophomore homeroom teacher. Through her, the seed of St. Julie’s charism fell from the hand of God into Eileen’s heart. It would take deep root. She entered Notre Dame at Ilchester in 1950, and ever after loved being an SND.
From the outset, her versatility came into play. Her first assignments were to internal community service as a cook at Ilchester and Villa Julie. But she was soon out on the parochial-school circuit, teaching at various levels along the eastern seaboard, from Staten Island to Norfolk. Eileen loved teaching. Besides her professional training in education, she had another enviable credential: much loved aunt. In that capacity, she had learned to win children’s trust and share their fun. She relished the vivid memory of a particular romp with nieces at her mother’s house. The “game of the day” was to see who could jump up and down farthest and fastest – on a bed, no less, and without falling off! Eileen joined in –carefully! They loved her for the fun of it all.
How did she happen to move from teaching little ones into the world of health-and elder-care? We can’t be sure, but the attraction seems to have been with her for some time. Her sister Hannah’s work directing activities for residents at St. Francis Country House, a rehabilitation and nursing center in Darby, PA, may have been a catalyst. When Eileen moved from Norfolk, VA (her last teaching post), she took a support-staff position at the same care facility, and apparently what she found there fanned the flame of her “call into the ministry of nursing.” After five years at St. Francis and two more at Media’s Manchester House, a similar facility, she began full-time study at Villanova University’s College of Nursing. Though she never earned an RN, she proved herself to be a born caregiver with a remarkable hands-on bedside manner. Her final years of active ministry were spent as a Nursing Assistant, first in hospital settings (Bryn Mawr and Riddle Memorial, PA), and then in Private Duty (Delaware).
When she retired, Eileen’s eye for beauty, her skill in crafts, and her love of reading came to the fore. Painting sun-catchers and coloring intricate geometric designs with precision and taste were special hobbies. She loved showing her handiwork to visitors at Emmitsburg and Mount Notre Dame. Her broad interests and warm personality made her a ready conversationalist in both places, and an enthusiastic participant in the wide range of activities they offered. Along with crafts, she had a special love for parties. (Alas, her sweet tooth was a constant struggle!) She continued to nurture family ties, too. At Emmitsburg, for example, she delighted in being picked up for occasional home-cooked, family-style Sunday dinners by one of her nieces.
When Abram and Sarai set out from Haran, leaving land, relatives and their ancestral house, they had no road map. They walked in faith, trusting that God would show them the way, step by step, and bless them, as promised. So it was with Eileen. Her life is marked by a strong sense of God’s call – in 6th grade, during high school, throughout her Notre Dame life. There was no road map. It was one step at a time, in faith. She could not have imagined at the outset the extent to which she would have to become “proficient in adapting to change.” As in the case of Abram and Sarai, God blessed her, and made her a blessing to many others – SNDs, youngsters, sick people, elderly people, her wonderful family and many friends. Her homecoming on the Feast of Christ the King was God’s final gift to her. May she rest in royal, never-ending peace!
Born Mary Hegarty, May 28, 1932, Philadelphia, PA
Parents: Patrick Joseph and Winifred Marie Clark Hegarty
Siblings: 2 brothers and 2 sisters
Entered Notre Dame August 6, 1950 (Ilchester, MD)
First vows: April 5, 1953
Final Profession: July 30, 1958
Our Lady of Victory, Philadelphia, PA
West Catholic High School for Girls, Philadelphia, PA
B.S., Trinity College, Washington, DC (Education)
Villanova University, Villanova, PA – Study, Nursing Program
Community Service: 1950-54
Maryland Provincial House, Ilchester, MD (Cook)
Villa Julie, Stevenson, MD (Cook)
Parochial-School Teaching: 1954-76)
Sts Joachim and Ann, Brooklyn, NY (Teacher and Cook)
Little Flower, Great Mills, MD
Holy Rosary, Staten Island, NY
St. Ursula, Baltimore, MD
St. Martin, Gaithersburg, MD
St. Bernadette, Philadelphia, PA
Blessed Sacrament, Norfolk, VA
Health and Elder Care: 1976-90)
St. Francis Country House, Darby, PA (Support Staff)
Manchester House, Media, PA (Support Staff)
Bryn Mawr Hospital, Bryn Mawr, PA (Nursing Assistant)
Riddle Memorial Hospital, Media, PA (Nursing Assistant)
Private-Duty Nursing Assistant (New Castle, DE)
Villa Julie Residence, Stevenson, MD (2002)
St. Julie Hall, Emmitsburg, MD (Assisted Living, 2003)
St. Vincent Care Center, Emmitsburg, MD (Skilled Care, 2005)
Mount Notre Dame Health Center, Cincinnati, OH (2009)
Prepared by Mary Ann Cook, SND, with the assistance of Sr. Mary Adele White