Sister Mary Theresa Vesey, S.S.J., died Aug. 27 and was buried at St. Joseph Villa Aug. 30. She was 92.
Sister Mary was born in an English mining town, Wigan, which was unique in its totally Catholic population, and Mary was embraced by members of the entire town.
Seeking employment, her family moved to America and settled in the Strawberry Mansion section of Philadelphia. Sister Mary and her siblings, James and Frances, attended Most Precious Blood Elementary School, and Sister Mary graduated from John W. Hallahan High School in June 1939.
During her childhood, Sister Mary and her family returned to England a few times. However, in 1930, her family returned to America in the midst of the Great Depression. Recalling a childhood experience of this era, she remembered her mother cutting up her silk gabardine coat to make her daughter a school uniform. Only in her adult years did the young girl appreciate her mother’s sacrifice.
In the midst of this economic hardship Sister Mary’s family encouraged her to follow her vocation, although she offered to remain at home and contribute to the family’s income.
On Sept. 8, 1939, Sister Mary’s life as a Sister of St. Joseph began, and she quickly earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Chestnut Hill College and master’s degree in theology from La Salle College. With these credentials she began a long career in the classroom, teaching every grade from one to 12 in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and dioceses of Camden, Allentown and Trenton.
After some initial reluctance and a life-changing experience with Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Sister Mary decided to pursue a career in pastoral care. For the next 24 years, Sister Mary served as a pastoral associate to the sick and dying at Camden County Hospital, Lakeland, N.J. She recalled her service during these years as “the greatest privilege of my life.”
At age 80, Sister Mary left this second beloved ministry and moved to Wildwood, N.J., to be closer to her family and serve at Assumption Parish. After 10 years of service, Sister Mary moved to St. Joseph Villa in 2010.