Marjorie Wherry was born on September 24, 1884 to John Wherry and Mary Ann Fay in Toxteth Park, Liverpool, England. Her father was a ship scraper in Liverpool. Margaret, who went by Marjorie, believed her parents had died leaving her sister and her as orphans in Liverpool in the early 1890s.
Marjorie and her younger sister Bridget left Liverpool on May 21, 1891 aboard the Steamship SS. Sardinian. They arrived in Quebec City on May 31, 1891 under the care of Mrs. Lacy of the Catholic Children’s Protection Society of Liverpool. Mrs. Lacy brought the party of 33 home children to the House of Providence on June 1, 1891. Both Bridget and Marjorie, lived at the House of Providence for over a year. The sisters were separated on September 20th 1892 when Bridget was placed with Mrs. Mary Hughes of McDonald’s Corners, Dalhousie Township in Lanark County. Several days later Marjorie was placed with a Mrs. Hurst in Kingston, leaving the House of Providence on September 29th, 1892.
Sr. Mary Benita (Marjorie Wherry)
There is no record of when she left the care of Mrs. Hurst; however she was in the care of Mrs. Grey by the spring of 1894. On May 2, 1894 Marjorie Wherry was re-admitted to the House of Providence after being removed from the care of a Mrs. Grey due to concerns for the child’s spiritual education. She seems to have been in and out of the House of Providence in 1894 and 1895, however the dates in the orphanage records are conflicting, but it seems that Marjorie Wherry spent at least six months at the House of Providence before being adopted by Mrs. Costella of Carleton Place in the fall of 1894. Mrs. Costella paid for Marjorie to stay at the House of Providence for six weeks in the spring of 1895 so that she might prepare for her first communion. She continued to live with Mrs. Costella until it seems that Marjorie returned to Mrs. Grey in January 1897 against Mrs. Costella’s wishes. With the help of the Sisters, Mrs. Grey was persuaded to give Marjorie up and Marjorie was “sent to Brockville where a home will be secured for her and thus remove the little one from the temptation of running away to Mrs. Gray’s home.” It is unclear whether she returned to Mrs. Costella’s care or not.
Four years later she returned to the House of Providence and entered the Sisters of Providence as a tertiary on February 9th, 1901. She made her vows as a tertiary on July 28, 1903 and took the name Sr. Benita. Tertiaries were auxiliary members of the congregation who performed domestic labour. The congregation had a tertiary program from 1895 to 1907 when the program was slowly phased out and the tertiaries were allowed to enter the Novitiate. Sr. Benita served at the House of Providence in Kingston until 1907, when she moved to St. Vincent de Paul Hospital in Brockville to replace several of the tertiaries, including Sr. Mary Angelica and Sr. Mary George, who left the hospital in 1907 to enter the novitiate in Kingston. In November 1908 it was Sr. Benita’s turn to enter the novitiate in Kingston and she took her first vows as Sister Mary Benita of the Sisters of Providence on May 3, 1910.
Sr. Mary Benita was able to keep in touch with her sister over the years, as her sister visited her at the House of Providence and she visited her sister’s home. She also kept in touch with her adoptive family the Costellas. In August 1916, Sr. Mary Benita had appendicitis and underwent an operation from which it took her a year and a half to recover. There were several times during this period when it was thought she was dying. According to the congregational annals, Mr. Costella from Toronto came to the House of Providence to visit Marjorie and he “was permitted to go into the infirmary as he was like a father to Sister before her entrance into religious.”
Although Sr. Mary Benita was able to keep in touch with her sister, she was completely disconnected from her family and previous life in England, to the point where she had no proof of her age when applying for her Old Age Pension. She requested her birth certificate from England and was surprised to discover that she was a couple of years older than she thought!
Marjorie Wherry spent 62 years in the congregation, 7 as a tertiary and 55 as a Sister of Providence. During her 55 years as a Sister she served mainly at the House of Providence in Kingston in various capacities, including domestic duties, home nursing, collecting tours, and as a companion in the Printing Room, as well as serving two years in St. Mark’s Convent in Prescott. She died on July 13, 1963.