What secrets, what destinies may be enclosed in a single day. What cause for joy or grief. So realized the dear Sisters of the Trenton mission, on that eventful day, Monday November 26, 1928. So was it brought home to each Sister of the Institute when the message sounded, “Sister Mary Andrew is no more”, “The Angel of Death had laid his hand upon her. She has been called away.”
How sad, how afflicted were we all. But recovering a little from this sorrowful surprise, we could not but be convinced that if one of our number had to go, she is the most ready to answer the summons – the fittest to render her account. We longed to hear the particulars. “Did she die very suddenly? Had she a priest by her side? What happened to her whom we thought was in robust health?
These and many similar questions passed through our Mother General’s mind, when an hour after, in Winnipeg, the sad news reached her. Our Mother was making her Visitation of this Mission, the last before leaving for home, having previously completed her visit of the entire far West missions. What a surprise to be called to the telephone, and to hear Mother Assistant’s voice so far away distinctly uttering the sad message. She also added there was no need for anxiety, all arrangements were being made. No necessity of interrupting her plans.
The facts and circumstances of our dear Sister’s departure as were communicated to us a few days later:
Sister was not feeling very well for a couple of days, her stomach was disordered. She suffered from indigestion. Not finding her condition improved on Sunday, the Superior, Sister M. Winnifred thought well to call in the doctor. The doctor prescribed for her, as he had done, on occasions before, but did not manifest any anxiety or alarm. Though not much improved on Monday, she insisted on going to her class-room, where she continued her work as usual.
In the afternoon too, she went back to her work remaining even until half past four, as was her wont, in order that all might be left in perfect order for the following day.
Returning to the convent, she was about to undertake some further duty, but was persuaded to rest. A few minutes later, a Sister answering the bell for meditation was passing her room, and noticing her on her knees, and her head on the floor, went to her, to find her, as if breathing her last. Giving the alarm, the pastor, Rev. Father Crowley was in a few minutes. He thought there might yet be life and anointed her, but, whether or not, Sister Mary Andrew was with her God. “O what a fright to her companions, Sister had left them.”
The good people of Trenton were shocked when the sad news went abroad, and hastened to the convent to tender their heartfelt sympathy, and offer their assistance, many remaining during the night.
Solemn Requiem Mass was offered next morning by Rev. Father Crowley at which all the children of the school together with their parents assisted. Many spiritual offering were presented. The remains were transferred to the Motherhouse by motor, accompanied by Rev. Dean Crowley, the Sisters, and six gentlemen of the Parish.
Of our dear Sister’s life we shall now speak:
Mary Ellen McLellan as she was known in the world, was the daughter of John McLellan and Margaret McIntosh, and was thus descended from two old staunch Scotch Catholic Families of Glengarry. She was born Jan. 2, 1868. Her father was a well-to-do farmer living near St. Andrews. Their home was a resting place for our Sisters, who, in the early days of the Institute, made an annual tour of that country soliciting alms for their poor. It was on the occasion of one of these visits that Miss Mary Ellen, who had been teaching in the vicinity for a few years, expressed a wish to go home with the Sisters, having in mind the settling of her vocation. The Sisters were very pleased. She came and spent a couple of days at the Providence, seemed favourably impressed and promised to return. This she did some months later, entering the Novitiate October 31, 1892.
The Superiors were not long in discerning the qualities of the young aspirant, very quiet, unpretentious, unassuming, yet possessed of good sense and solid judgment. No task was too great, nothing too hard. “What matter” was her usual response when affairs were burdensome, implying thereby “It is all counted, it has been ordered” therefore why despond?
The time of her probation as Postulant having expired, she was advanced to the reception of the Holy Habit, August 1, 1893. It was about this time owing to the departure of the Brothers from St. Mary’s School, that the Community was asked to send Sisters to take charge of three of the classes in September of the same year. Sister McLellan was named for the Primary Class. Thus began her work as a Religious teacher, which she faithfully followed to the last day of her life. There was but one interruption. Two months after beginning to teach in Nov. 1, 1893, she took suddenly and seriously ill.
Given up by Doctor Phalen on the third day she was prepared for death, received the last Sacraments with perfect resignation to God’s Will. The Superior General, Mother Edward in her distress made known her condition to His Grace, the Most Rev. Dr. Cleary. In his goodness and kindness of heart, His Grace came the next morning and after a short examination permitted Sister to pronounce her Religious Vows, taking the name Sister Mary Andrew. The scene was very impressive; the whole Community were assembled to witness the last solemn act of this beloved Sister. Before taking his leave, however, His Grace pout the question to her, “If God seems fit to hear our prayers and restore you to health, will you be satisfied to teach faithfully in His Service the remainder of your Life?” Unhesitatingly, the answer came, “Yes”. His Grace then advised that the noted physician Doctor Sullivan be called. With a change of medicine and treatment the patient began to recover as if by magic. Her companions in the different schools in which she was called to teach, can testify how well and faithfully Sister kept her promise.
After the Christmas holidays, she resumed her duties at Saint Mary’s School where she continued for three years until Sept. 1896, when she was appointed to St. John’s School, Perth. Here she laboured long, having in addition to her class duties, the care of the church Sacristy.
The new mission of Prescott opening Sept. 1905, Sister was named one of the first teachers. Three years later, Sept. 1908, she was changed to Brockville, where she taught another period of nine years. In September 1917 she was appointed Superior of the new mission of Tweed, but continued in charge of the Primary Class. The next move was to Trenton, her last charge.
The funeral took place on Wednesday a.m. November 28th. Solemn Requiem Mass was celebrated by Very Rev. Msgr. Nicholson assisted by Rev. S.A. Corrigan, Rev. J. Feeney and Rev. F. Whalen. A large number of the clergy were in attendance. Sister’s brother Mr. Alex McLellan and his two sisters came for the funeral.
The remains of our beloved Sister were placed in St. Mary’s vault, and on Saturday April 20, 1929, were confined to their last resting place in the cemetery. May she rest in peace, and may she intercede for those she has left behind.