Sister Mary Majella Coughlin

Elizabeth Coughlin
1859 - 1921

Late in November, 1906, Miss Elizabeth Coughlin of Toronto arrived at the Providence, and humbly requested admission into our Novitiate. Her parents and family were well and favourably known to many of our senior Sisters for they formerly belonged to this Diocese – to the parish of Picton, and our Sisters collecting were often entertained at their home.

As this application was out of the ordinary, the applicant being far over Canonical age (she was born Aug. 18, 1859) the members of the Council were told to confer with her individually in order to come to a correct decision. As the result of their deliberation, the Council expressed their willingness to receive Miss Coughlin, if a dispensation could be obtained in her favour from the Ecclesiastical Authority. This permission being granted, Miss Coughlin was admitted into the Novitiate November 28, 1906.

From the beginning she applied herself earnestly to learn the duties of the Religious state, and to acquit herself faithfully of all that was prescribed. Though the change of habits and customs, the long hours of prayer and study must have been particularly trying to her nature, advanced in age as she was, nevertheless, she persevered generously from day to day, ready at the call of obedience to sacrifice her will and judgment in all things as occasion demanded. In her manner she was very reserved and modest, but yet kind and gentle with her associates.

She was clothed with the Holy Habit on the Feast of the Presentation, 1907, and on the same feast a year later pronounced her Religious Vows. Some time after Profession, she was sent to St. Vincent de Paul Hospital, Brockville, where she did duty for nearly three years in the dispensary, kitchen and the wards.

At the summer retreat, 1912, complaining of over fatigue while at work, she was recalled to the Mother House and employed in the costume room. In August, 1915, as she was feeling and looking better, she was given charge of the little girls at St. Mary’s of the Lake (Orphanage), which work appealed to her, and she managed successfully and well over a year. She returned to Brockville the following year, and was employed in sewing for the hospital.

In June 1917, she was appointed to Providence Hospital, Moose Jaw. At the beginning of the next year, as there was an urgent appeal for assistance from Rosary Hall, Edmonton, she was transferred to that mission. In October, 1918, she took very ill and was sent to the hospital. Here her trouble was discovered, she was suffering from an internal cancer. This information having been communicated to the Superior General, a message was sent to have Sister come to the Mother House when able to travel.

She recovered sufficiently to be able to return home December 10, 1918. She continued able to go about, to go to the chapel and to the refectory, and to do some little sewing. Always very reticent, she became particularly so now; she did not care to speak of her ailment. If enquiry were made, she would say she was feeling better. During the last six months of her life, she was to be found either in the choir gallery, the hall, or the room which was adjoining. Very little complaint was made, though she must have suffered intensely.

To Sister Mary Edmund (Scott) alone she revealed her sufferings and troubles. Sister was permitted to spend her recreations with her, and for the last three weeks of her life, to be with her night and day.

On June 12, 1921, she was prepared for death a second time by Rev. Father Hyland. It was thought she would linger for some weeks, but she surprised us all by passing away suddenly the next afternoon n at 3:30 o’clock, on the feast of St. Anthony.

Sister Mary Edmund alone was with her. She asked to be lifted, and she was gone without a struggle. Surely after her long years of suffering, patiently borne, our dear Sister must have soon reached her eternal home for which she longed.

She was asked during her last illness if she would not like to have her Sisters sent for. “No, she replied, Let them know when I am gone, they will then come.” It seems that on her way home from the West, she had called to see them and made this arrangement. The three sisters came for the funeral. They were not at all surprised. They had known of her condition and were most thankful and happy that she was at rest.

The funeral was on Wednesday, June 15, His Grace Most Rev. M.J. Spratt officiated at Pontifical Mass of Requiem, assisted by Rev. Father Kehoe, Father Kearney, Father Hyland and Father Leacy. May she rest in peace, and pray for us.