Sister Mary Eileen Foley, who taught at
Madonna Hall before becoming principal, said the school
was first located in Boston where it operated for 100
years before moving to Marlborough in 1964. When state
funding dried up in 1985, the school closed and the property
was sold. But the convent remained and was converted
into an assisted living facility which currently houses
about 27 Good Shepherd nuns.
The sisters were good enough to meet with me this week
and tell me their stories. They are gracious women bound
by their devotion to a religious life, to each other,
and to what they describe as a calling from God.
Sister Janice Ahearn introduced herself first by her
religious name, Sister Mary Regina Ahearn, and then by
her legal name, Sister Janice Ahearn.
She will be 89 in August. Ahearn is well educated holding
a bachelor's degree in math, and two master's degrees
- one in library science and the other in remedial reading.
But the world she encountered as a woman in 1942 is
very different from the world today. Ahearn attended
St. Joseph's College in Brooklyn. Tuition was $100 a
semester, and she wanted to major in math.
"I was told I was not allowed to major in math because
that was not a field for women," she said. "So I threatened
As Foley said, "The sisters of the Good Shepherd have
that kind of quality. They won't take no for an answer.
They advocate and fight for the best."
Well, Ahearn didn't give up, the dean gave in, and she
was allowed to continue as a math major.
Ahearn excelled in school but wanted to become a nun. "My
mother didn't like me entering the convent," she said, "but
I more or less always wanted to enter the convent."
Dooley's path was a different one. She was born and
grew up in New York City. And, yes, she added, she is
a Yankees' fan.
Dooley's mother died when she was 10, and she started
having trouble in school. Her cousin, Michael, a New
York City Police officer, sent her to the nuns for help.
"I was drawn to the sisters," she said. "That's what
the Lord was calling me to. I felt I had a vocation."
At the age of 20, Dooley entered the convent. She is
what is called a contemplative. These sisters are "the
powerhouse of prayer" and support themselves by sewing
and making alter bread.
"It's been a long religious life, 65 years, but a happy
life," Dooley said.
McCready could not join us on Monday, but her longtime
friend, Sister Virginia Fowler, told me about her life.
Like Fowler, McCready is from Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Both her parents died when she was young, and she was
placed in an orphanage run by the Sisters of Charity.
At the beginning of World War II, she worked in a factory.
She entered the convent on Oct. 31, 1942.
Like Dooley, McCready is a contemplative. She did embroidery,
loves music and "was pretty good at everything she tried," said
Fowler. When the monastery in Halifax closed, the sisters
moved to Windsor, Ontario and then to New York. And,
finally to Marlborough.
Fowler was two years behind McCready and has known her
for more than 60 years. "She is a good singer and loves
to play cards."
On June 6, a Jubilee Mass was celebrated at the Good
Shepherd Center. Sixty-five years may be a long time,
but as Fowler said, "We would do it all over again."
(Elizabeth Banks is the west regional editor for
the MetroWest Daily News. She can be reached at 508-490-7459
or by e-mail at [email protected].)