Sister Mary Francis Borgia Barry

Elizabeth Helena Barry
1884 - 1975

Elizabeth Helena Barry was born on a farm in the parish of Morrisburg, Ontario on August 4, 1884, one of nine children of James and Sarah Barry.

After graduating from the local high school she attended Ottawa Teachers’ College and taught for a few years in schools near her home. On September 1, 1913, she entered the Novitiate of the Sisters of Providence, at what is now Providence Manor, and made profession in 1915 as Sister Mary Francis Borgia. She was followed into the Providence Community by two sisters – Edith (Sister Mary Leonard) in 1914, and Veronica (Sister Mary Emerita) in 1916. A fourth member of the family, Alice, entered the Novitiate in 1919, but ill-health prevented her from persevering in religious life.

Sister Mary Borgia was one of the four Sisters who in 1915 opened St. Francis School, Smiths Falls, where she remained for four years. After more than fifty years of devoted services in the classroom in various schools of the diocese, she spent a couple of years helping on the missions in Montreal and then six years as receptionist at St. John’s Convent, Perth. In 1967 she retired to the Marian Infirmary at the Mother House, where after eye surgery for the removal of cataracts, she remained active for almost eight years.

In June of 1975 it was observed that she was failing and she was persuaded to consult a doctor. He had her admitted to Hotel Dieu and an exploratory operation disclosed an advanced state of cancer which would allow her only weeks to live. She died on July 5.

Sister Mary Borgia will be remembered for her cheerfulness and never-failing humour. In spite of almost continuous suffering throughout her life from digestive disorders, and the intense pain she endured during the last few months of her life, she never complained or lost her smile of her love of a joke. She was the delight of nurses at the hospital, whom she often entertained with the recitation of such poems as “The Face of the Bar-Room Floor”.

But she will be remembered more especially by her religious community, her pupils, and the seculars in the parishes where she lived for her spirit of prayer and particularly her ardent devotion to the Mass.

Only one of her immediate family survives her sister Mary Leonard, an invalid in the infirmary; but several nieces and nephews were present for the funeral Mass concelebrated by His Grace, Archbishop Wilhelm and Father T. Raby of Brockville, as well as Father Peter Murphy of Prescott. Other clergy present were: Monsignor Bernard Walsh, Father Pickett and Father Clement of Kingston; Father Buckley, chaplain at the Mother House, and Father Hibbard of Prescott.