Therese McMenamin, SNDdeN
(Formerly Sister Therese Aloysius)
December 28, 1923 – February 3, 2019
Therese McMenamin brought many gifts to Notre Dame when she entered our congregation in 1941. She was ever ready to give credit where credit was due:
“I was privileged to be born of Irish immigrant parents who created a home environment of laughter, music and devotedness to one another. Their indomitable faith in God and the church, coupled with an abiding hope and trust in Jesus and his mother, Mary, were the primary movers that led to my belief in the goodness of God and my decision to serve Him in religious life.” (2001 Diamond Jubilee statement)
She never stopped marveling at her parents’ “personal and observable love of God” and the way it had spilled over into all of their relationships – with each other, with their children, and with “the many people who touched their lives” (2011 Platinum Jubilee statement). In fact, Therese wrote that she entered Notre Dame precisely because she wanted more and more children to have the kind of solid formation in faith and love that her parents had given her.
Gifted wordsmith that she was, Therese wrote of entering the convent “timidly,” making first vows “trustfully” and facing her first class “with terror.” The terror was short lived! She came to regard her students, along with her parents and her SND community, as “prime movers” in her life--“the power behind Who I have become!!” By 1972, Therese had delivered 23 years of parochial school teaching (18 of them in First Grade, the truest test of pedagogical excellence!), and 5 more as principal of two different schools. She had “hop-scotched up and down the East Coast from New York to Georgia,” as she put it, “wearing one of the various hats of educators.”
It was while she was in the Washington area - first at St. Camillus (Silver Spring), where there was a growing Latino population, and then at St. Martin (T Street), with its large African-American enrollment–that Therese began flirting with a new “educator hat”–speech therapy. In 1966, she began spending her summers taking courses in speech pathology at various universities (University of North Carolina, University of Maryland, and Temple University in Philadelphia). Having thus completed prerequisites, she approached the Maryland Province Personnel Office for clearance to enroll as a full-time student at Temple in pursuit of an M.A. in speech pathology. She saw the move firmly grounded in our SND mission:
It is my understanding the Notre Dame mission is primarily concerned with the poor. It is equally true that students from deprived environments have many psychological and emotional problems which often [manifest themselves] through defective or impaired speech. This impairment is a crippling disability in a society which places great emphasis on verbal communication. Speech Therapy, therefore, . . . eases one impediment that could render hopeless one group of creative, competent persons. (June 1972)
A year or so later, Master’s degree in hand, Therese became a licensed Speech Therapist and began “hop-scotching” again for over 14 years – this time, around non-public schools in the School District of Philadelphia. In the process., she served as Speech Supervisor for CORA Services (Counseling Or Referral Assistance), a non-profit providing schools with “academic support, school counseling, occupational therapy, speech and language services, psychological services, truancy services and student assessment programs.” CORA’s motto was right down Therese’s alley: “Children are the Heart of the Matter.” The organization prided itself on the claim that “no one is ever turned away.” For SNDs like Therese, that philosophy rings a familiar and welcome bell!
Therese’s final venue as a speech therapist was the Academy of Notre Dame, Villanova, PA. She always remembered her “eleven happy years” there with special joy, particularly the school’s “delightful, wonderful students and faculty.” All told, she had spent 25 years wearing the Speech Therapist hat or, as she saw it, easing an impediment that could otherwise block gifted children’s realization of their full potential.
All through her years of full-time active ministry, Therese had remained deeply rooted in Notre Dame community, charism and spirituality. While at Villanova, she introduced a fledgling group of Notre Dame Associates to the story and writings of Julie Billiart, guiding their reflection on how Notre Dame spirituality could play into their own faith journeys. They still remember her with gratitude.
It was from Villanova that Therese moved to semi-retirement at Holy Spirit Parish in South Philadelphia, where she volunteered in the school office (2004-2006). Next came Villa Julie Residence (2006 -2011). She wrote of the community there: “This is a house of prayer. I believe, however, it could also be called a house of love, for we do all in our power to help one another, and also include the needs of our many brothers and sisters throughout the world in our thoughts, prayers and sacrifices. It is truly a house of loving concern for God’s people.” (2011; Platinum Jubilee statement)
It was during her fifth year at Villa Julie that Therese composed a formal statement, artistically designed, carefully worded, and duly signed and dated. A copy is attached here in PDF format. It reads as follows:
CONSIDERING THE NEXT CHAPTER OF MY LIFE
When the time comes that it is judged that I am too old or too ill to remain at Villa Julie Residence, it is my wish that I would continue to live with the community I happily chose so many years ago. I therefore desire to join my Sisters at Ohio/West. Thank you for considering this request, and if possible, abiding by my decision.
Sister Therese McMenamin, June 3, 2011
Back in 1944, Therese had made her first vows “trustingly”; still true to form as a Platinum Jubilarian, she was bravely poised to “hop-scotch” once again--not to a new ministry, but to a new Notre Dame home. May we all be as agile when our time comes!
So much trust, so much readiness to risk letting go: Therese was in good form when God called her on February 3rd. Surely, her parents were there to welcome her as she happily hop-scotched into the arms of the Lord she had served so well!
Born Edith Mary McMenamin, December 28, 1923, Woodbury, NJ
Arthur A. McMenamin (Belfast, Ireland) and Theresa McGonigle (Londonderry, Ireland)
Dorothy McMenamin Tobey (Fairport, NY)
Eileen M. Cardy, Margaret M. Pascale, and Sr. Patricia McMenamin, G.N.SH (all three deceased)
Thomas and Arthur (both deceased)
Entered Notre Dame September 7, 1941, Ilchester, MD
First Vows: February 17, 1944
Final Profession: July 23, 1949
Our Lady of Holy Souls Parochial School, Philadelphia
Little Flower Catholic Girl’s High School, Philadelphia PA
B.S (Education): Trinity College, Washington, DC (1963)
M.A. (Speech Pathology): Temple University, Philadelphia PA
Licensed: Speech Pathology
Elementary School Teaching (1944 – 67)
St. Francis Xavier, Washington DC
St. James, Mt. Rainier, MD
St. Ursula School, Baltimore, MD
St. Catherine of Genoa, Brooklyn, NY
St. Martin, T St. Washington, DC
St. Thomas more, Decatur, GA
St. Eleanor, Collegeville, Philadelphia, PA
St. Eleanor, Collegeville, Philadelphia, PA
St. Camillus, Washington, DC,
St. Martin, T St. Washington, DC (Principal, 1967-69)
St. Mary’s School, Philadelphia PA (Principal, 1969-72)
Cardinal Doherty High School, Philadelphia PA (Clerical Assistant, 1992-93)
School District of Philadelphia – Non-Public Schools (Speech Therapist, 1972-91)
CORA Services (Counseling Or Referral Assistance), Philadelphia PA (Speech Supervisor, 1975-77)
Academy of Notre Dame, Villanova, PA ( Speech Therapist, 1993 - 2004)
Holy Spirit, South Philadelphia (2004; Part-time Volunteer, School Office)
Villa Julie Residence, Stevenson, MD (2006)
Mount Notre Dame Health Center, Cincinnati, OH (2011)
Prepared by Mary Ann Cook, SNDdeN