Sister Mary Patrick McDonagh, OSU: Aug. 12, 1930-Dec. 28, 2020

Sister Mary Patrick McDonagh, 90, an Ursuline Sister of Mount Saint Joseph, died Dec. 28, 2020, at Mount Saint Joseph, in her 68th year of religious life. She was a native of Trienbawn, County Galway, Ireland.

Sister Mary Patrick was the epitome of Ursuline hospitality, always an encouraging word to whoever she met. She was an Ursuline with her sister Frances, who died in 2011. She earned her registered nursing degree from DePaul Hospital School of Nursing, St. Louis, in 1959. She also earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Marillac College, St. Louis, in 1972.

She was an Ursuline Sister of Belleville, Ill., prior to that community’s merger with Mount Saint Joseph in 2005. She served as a teacher, a trained nurse and offered community service in Belleville, Mascoutah and Smithton, Ill., for 47 years. She taught in Illinois at Holy Childhood of Jesus School, Mascoutah (1962-63), Our Lady Queen of Peace, Belleville (1964-70, 1971-85) and St. John the Baptist, Smithton (1988-92). She ministered in literacy training in Belleville (1985-88) and community service, including visiting the sick, from 1992 until she retired in 2007 and moved to Kentucky.

Survivors include the members of her religious community and nieces and nephews.

In compliance with health and public safety directives, the wake service at 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 3, and the funeral Mass at 10:30 a.m. Monday at Mount Saint Joseph will be private.

Glenn Funeral Home and Crematory, Owensboro, is in charge of arrangements.

Donations in memory of Sister Mary Patrick may be made to the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, 8001 Cummings Road, Maple Mount, KY 42356.

In Remembrance of Sister Mary Patrick McDonagh, OSU

January 3, 2021

Sister Amelia Stenger, OSU, Congregational Leader


Claddagh is an Irish word that means Love, Friendship and Loyalty.  The Irish symbol of Claddagh represents the very best aspects of a relationship.  Arms encircling a heart that is crowned, means a pledge of love…friendship…and loyalty.  

Sister Mary Patrick was the embodiment of Claddagh.  She loved her family, her community, and the Church.  She was friends to many people in many places and was always ready to tell a story about one of them.  Sister left us on December 28 in her 68th year of service to God and the community.  

Sister Mary Patrick, Annie McDonagh, was born on August 12, 1930 in Trienbane, County Galway, Ireland.  She was the tenth of eleven children born to John McDonagh and Bridget Collins McDonagh.  Her brothers and sisters were Mary, Julia, Michael, Delia, Sarah, Willie, Sister Francis, Eileen and Father Jarlath.  She said her parents taught by prayer, word and example the important things in life.  They grew up in County Galway, the west of Ireland which got the rain and cold from the Westerly winds. Her parents owned a small farm of about 40 acres.  Their work included tillage of the land, grazing land and a piece of bog land which supplied turf or peat for their fire. 

Their home had a straw thatched roof which her father renewed every few years.  The thatched roof was good for keeping the heat inside.  They had an open fireplace where turf from the bog was burnt.  The fire in the kitchen was used for cooking and for keeping the house warm.  The kitchen was the room where the family came together for meals, prayers, studying and socializing.

This is where she came after she was baptized on August 16, 1930.  She was confirmed on June 17, 1942 in Belclare Church in Galway, Eire. 

As a child, she and her brothers and sisters would cut the turf that would be used in the fireplace to cook their food.  In the fall the turf/peat would be taken home, stacked in a shed and used for the fire the following year when the peat was completely dry.  She said that they wore warm clothes some of which came in packages from the United States.  Since they were a big family, their oldest sisters were in America before the youngest were born.  They sent packages of clothes and other items to them in Ireland.

At the age of five she started her first School days in Sylane National School.  The school was about a mile from her home so she walked every day.  She remained there until she was fifteen years of age doing ordinary school subjects.  When she was eight years old her eyesight was examined by the school optician who told her she needed glasses because she had a cast in her eye and had very little sight in it since her birth.

After leaving Sylan National School she spent a year helping her family at home.  Then she went to the Presentation Convent School as a day pupil for almost four years.  She said that she was lucky because the school was about four miles away but she had a bicycle so she didn’t have to walk.  The first two years were spent doing regular classes and the remainder of the time on commercial subjects.  That prepared her to go to London, England where she worked in an office as a copy typist.  Some of her report cards were in the files.  It was interesting to see that in the first one she was typing twenty-five words a minute and in the last one she was typing 60 words a minute.  She became very proficient. 

The church the family attended was also about four miles away.  She said that Mass was at 8:30 and they would walk without food or water after midnight so they could go to communion and then walk all the way home before they could get anything to eat.  She said she used the time to pray so she wouldn’t think about being hungry. 

While she was at the convent school, she sometimes thought she would like to enter a religious community, but it was only during the time she worked in England that she fully decided that is what she wanted to do.  She got to know the Ursuline order through visiting her sister, Sister Francis, in Kettering, England at various times during the year.  It was then that she felt that God was calling her to enter the Ursuline community.  She wrote her parents asking their consent and when she received their permission, she wrote to the Mother General in Germany to be accepted into the Ursuline Community.  She said she received a reply saying that if she had received permission from her parents, then she would be accepted into the community.  She entered the Ursuline Community in Kettering, England on October 15, 1951.  That same year here in Kentucky, Sisters Eva, Ruth, Michael Ann and Mary Diane entered the community.  We offer you our sympathy and prayers.

The next month on November 2, 1951, her father died.  He was buried before she was notified, and it was just understood that they wouldn’t go home.  After eleven months she began her novitiate in Kettering, England.  In 1952, she was sent to Calvarienberg, German, along with Mother Mechtilde, who was the superior at Kettering.  The next two years were spent at the Motherhouse in Germany.  After her first profession of vows in 1954, she was missioned to the United States and came by the Ship Liberty. At that time, Belleville was one of their missions. 

She came to Belleville, Illinois, and began classes at Webster College in St. Louis and did community service at the convent.  From 1956 to 1959, she attended Nursing School at DePaul Hospital in St. Louis. During that time, she made final vows.  She said that the chapel at the Convent was too small, so the Liturgy and services were in the school basement at Our Lady Queen of Peace.  She said at that time she didn’t know that she would spend twenty years teaching at Our Lady Queen of Peace school.

During 1959 and 1960 she took care of the retired sisters at the Motherhouse in Belleville.  During that time the other nurse, Sister Rosalia, studied and then was ready to take over the care of the Sisters.  It was at that time that she was asked to go to school at Marillac College in St. Louis to focus on Elementary Education.  In 1964 she received word that her mother had died.  She was not able to go to the funeral just as she had not attended her father’s funeral.  It was during that same year of 1964 that she became a citizen of the United States. She received her Bachelor of Education in 1971.  She taught for twenty-five years.  These include Holy Childhood School in Mascoutah for one year, Our lady Queen of Peace in Belleville for 20 years and St. John the Baptist in Smithton for years.  She said that all her years of teaching were very rewarding.

In 1992 she began her work of community service at the convent in Belleville.  She also volunteered with Hospice of Southern Illinois where she visited and brought the Eucharist to the homebound.  She continued that work until she moved to Mount Saint Joseph in 2007.  

During her years here at the Mount, she shared so much of her wonderful personality.  In a questionnaire concerning her before she made final vows, the sisters gave these comments: 


She has a good understanding and judgement and uses it prudently;

She has a deep spirit of faith which she carries over into all her actions;

She is very determined and resolute and never subject to moodiness;

She has a very fine character, always graciously yielding to others whenever possible;

She is exemplary in obedience, charity, and humility;

She has a staring look caused by a physical defect in her left eye which determines her unfitness for the teaching profession; (She certainly showed them with her many years of teaching.)

In a paper she wrote in 1996 when she was taking some classes on Spirituality for her certification for Religious Education, she shared a quote by Edwina Gateley.  It says, “Spirituality is allowing ourselves to be soaked in God.”  Sister Mary Patrick’s thoughts on this were: “We are like a sponge when open to God’s grace.  We allow ourselves to be transformed.  We live in the spirit of prayer.  We accept God’s will in our lives.  We live in a process of conversion.”

Sister never stopped learning, there is a file full of certificates for all the classes she attended after she got a certification in nursing and a degree in education.  She shared this knowledge with so many.

And now she is sharing her Irish stories with her mom and dad and all her brothers and sisters.  She is the last of her family of eleven children.  She does have many nieces and nephews who loved her and were so devoted to her.  To you here and those who are watching on the live stream, we offer you our sympathy and prayers.  She loved you very much.  We also thank Sister Alicia and all the staff in the Villa for the care that you gave to Sister.  We are grateful.

In one of the autobiographies that she wrote, she ended it with these words, “In reflection on my journey through my lifetime I am reminded of a familiar song ‘We walk by Faith and Not by Sight.’ This gives me hope for now and for the future.”

Sister Mary Patrick, you certainly did walk by faith and you shared much Claddagh-Love, Friendship and Loyalty with many.  May your days in paradise be full of laughter. May we share that spirit of love that you shared with so many.  Rest in Peace.