Union US Sister Josepha Feeney Celebrates 60th Jubilee

18 Aug, 2020

It was with joy that the Presentation Sisters gathered at Callaghan Road, San Antonio, Texas, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the profession of vows of Sister Josepha Feeney on May 31, 2020. It was here, exactly 60 years to the day, that Sister Jo made her first profession of vows, and 57 years to the day since she made her final profession. “At that time,” Sister Jo shared, “that date marked the Feast of the Queenship of Mary.”

The occasion began in the beautifully-decorated chapel with the celebration of the Sunday liturgy, presided over by Father Mike O’Gorman, with Sisters Josepha, Cabrini Foley, Therese Gleitz, Catherine Gleitz, Finbarr O’Driscoll, Anne O’Leary, Joan O’Sullivan, and friend, Eileen Heeney, present. Sisters Margaret Mary Barrett and Consilio O’Keeffe were with us in spirit as they were unable to attend due to restrictions related to the ongoing pandemic. The opportunity to sing and pray together was doubly appreciated by all—as we were quietly aware that this would be the final such celebration at Callaghan Road.

Sisters Josepha and Finbarr serving jubilee cake.

Following the liturgy, we enjoyed a sumptuous meal in the beautifully decorated front parlour of the Jud House—prepared by Sisters Catherine, Cabrini and Therese. To top it off we were served up ‘fingers’ of delicious jubilee cake baked months before by the lady of the day, Sister Jo, and sipped tea from the best China cups! And of course, during both the liturgy and the jubilee meal, we recalled how often Sister Jo had prepared festive meals and jubilee cakes for so many down through the years. Her gifts for baking, cooking and hospitality are legendary.

Some days later, upon being asked, “What is the secret to such a long and fulfilled vocation?” Sister Jo replied, “Take each day as it comes.” Known also for her spiritual wisdom, she then offered a copy of a homily she had kept and points to the following insight: “St. Catherine of Sienna advised that we should never look at ourselves just by ourselves, that we should let Jesus be with us so that we learn to see ourselves as he sees us.” (+Martin Drennan, DD, Homily at Mass of a Gathering of Presentation Sisters at NUIG, Galway, 25 July ‘10).

And to the question, “Why Presentation?” Sister Jo recalls that when she felt the call of God to become a religious she decided to consult a man of God, the late Father Des Murphy, CSsR, in her home town, Sligo (Ireland). He directed her to the Presentation Sisters, Bandon, County Cork, where she entered in 1957. Subsequently, having volunteered for the Texas mission, she arrived in San Antonio on April 23, 1959, and, as they say, “the rest is history!”

L-R: Sisters Joan O’Sullivan, Finbarr O’Driscoll, Cabrini Foley, Therese Gleitz. Fr. Mike O’Gorman, Sisters Catherine Gleitz, Josepha Feeney, Anne O’Leary

When Sister Jo was a young sister she was appointed to the ministry of cooking, cleaning and shopping. “As well as teaching trainee-cooks at the Incarnate Word here in San Antonio,” recalls Sr Jo, “I was also sent to Pueblo, Colorado, for three weeks to learn more about cooking. While there, those of us participating in the program would go and visit the prisoners in the evening times.” Her ministry of cooking and caring for the community and all who came to Callaghan Road continued for many decades.

In 1995, Sister Jo enjoyed a sabbatical year, during which she discerned the call to a new ministry, namely, Sisters Care. This is a ministry coordinated by the Incarnate Word Sisters, where religious sisters of several communities ministered to seniors or housebound in their homes across San Antonio. Sister Jo served in this ministry for 10 years. Subsequently, she continued to serve her community and many more until she came to her new abode (along with Sisters Consilio, Finbarr and Margaret Mary) at the Villa de San Antonio, on May 12 last (co-incidentally the anniversary of Foundation Day of the community at Bandon, est. 1829). Not surprising, her presence, and that of her sister-companions, at the Villa is already a blessing to so many people here. The tall Statue of St Joseph and the child Jesus that she placed outside her apartment door causes many to pause and pray as they pass by; some to knock on the sisters’ door requesting prayers for a special intention. “Our yes to God is our greatest gift of the world.” (homily, as above) And so, we rejoice in the response of Sister Josepha Feeney to God 60 years ago, and even till now. Thank you, Sister Jo!

Article and Photos by Sister Anne O’Leary