Sister Mary of the Nativity

Mary Teresa Keilty

1844 - 1918
Sister Mary of the Nativity Keilty

At an early hour, before the Morning Prayer, on Feb. 1st, 1918, a sad message, if such it may be called, comes through the ‘phone to us. It is from our Sisters in Trenton. They are in deep grief. Their cherished Superior has been taken from them unexpectedly during the night. The Angel of Death has visited her and called her away, what news! What a surprise! We shall have to await the particulars. In the meantime the Sisters are told to communicate with our Mother General who is, at present, in Smith’s Falls. Later a message is received to meet the funeral cortege on the afternoon train.

They arrive, our Sisters Mary Rodriguez and Mary Evangelist with their precious burden, and the remains of our dear Sister Mary of the Nativity are placed according to custom in the Reception Room.

After gazing on her familiar countenance a few moments, and the De Profundis said, we listen in silence to the details of her departure as narrated by the Sisters.

At a quarter of 2 a.m. she came to the door of Sister Mary Rodriquez’ room, and, having awakened her, asked her to come that she had taken an attack of coughing similar to one she experienced a few weeks before and wished her to prepare a mustard paste to place on her chest. Sister went at once to her assistance and while another Sister got ready the paste, she prepared a hot drink. This her Superior was  loathe to take, saying she did not wish to break her fast, as she wished to go to Holy Communion, but ere the glass was placed to her lips, her spirit had taken its flight. The priest, also the physician, was there in a few minutes, but they found no life, Sister was really dead. Imagine the consternation and grief of the poor Sisters.

Much praise is due to the pastor, Rev. Father Connelly, for his kindness and charity on this occasion. Though only after 2 a.m. he gave the Sisters the opportunity of receiving Holy Communion and making their offering for their dear departed. He next assisted them in making all necessary preparation to take the train which would leave at 11 a.m. It was the first Friday and the altar was decorated for High Mass and exposition. He simply told the congregation that he would offer a High Mass of Requiem for the repose of the soul of the deceased Superior of the convent who had passed away during the night, asking them, as also the children who were present in a body, to remember her in their Holy Communion. To him also the credit is due for the many spiritual offerings that were made.

The subject of this memoir, Mary Teresa, the only daughter of Mark Keilty and Joanna Tracey, was born in the vicinity of Prescott June 12th, 1844. Not much is known of her early education, but we learned that she was instrumental in furthering the ambition of her youngest brother William, who aspired to the priesthood. After his ordination her one desire was that she too might be permitted to consecrate her life to the service of God. But here an obstacle intervened. Her dear mother, now grown old, needed her tender care and affection. She willingly resigned herself to what she considered was her present duty and awaited in peace God’s merciful designs in her regard. After her mother was laid to rest, she was then free to follow the Master’s call. She made known her intention to her brother, Rev. Father Keilty, who, though he had anticipated this years before, nevertheless felt very keenly the sacrifice of parting with his devoted and only Sister.

She entered our Community on the feast of the Nativity 1883, receiving the Holy Habit six months later; she made Holy Profession Jan. 5th, 1886. After this she was employed in the various works of the House, but manifesting a special preference or love for the immediate service of the poor, she was given charge of the women’s department.

In 1890 when La Grippe made its first appearance in this part of the country, she with many of the Community suffered a severe attack of the disease. She was long in recovering, or rather, she never really recovered, and as ever after complained of heart affection nevertheless she accomplished much for her Community.

She was sent to Brockville shortly after the hospital was opened and there rendered invaluable service. She had charge of the dispensary and kitchen, but was ever ready to lend a helping hand when and where required. Later she had charge of the linen department, priests’ table, portress, etc., all of which duties she executed with satisfaction to her Superior and Sisters.

After spending several years on this mission, she was recalled to the Mother House, taking charge of the refectory and at a later period the Community Room was assigned her.

In July 1913 she received the appointment of Local Superior of the Trenton mission, which position she held until her death, Feb. 1st, 1918.

During these years, though in feeble health, she was a source of edification to the Sisters by her example as well as her labours, ever manifesting a docile spirit, most respectful and submissive to her Superior, and exact in all that her rule prescribed.

Her funeral took place on Monday, Feb. 4th. His Grace, Most Rev. M.J. Spratt officiated at Pontifical High Mass of Requiem. Her remains were placed in St. Mary’s Vault and later conveyed to their last resting place in the cemetery.

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