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Sister Jeanette (Margaret Therese) Flaherty

Sister Jeanette Flaherty

“When Jesus saw her, he called her to him and said, ‘Woman, you are free of your infirmity.’” (Luke 13:12) “ … but one poor widow came and put in two small copper coins worth a few cents.” (Mark 12:42)

“Two anonymous women — loved by God, touched by God, faithful to their God. Each has something to tell us about who Sister Jeanette was,” said Sister Marie McCarthy in her commentary for Sister Jeanette Flaherty, the former Sister Margaret Therese, who died Jan. 18 in Kindred Hospital in North Lake, Ill.

Born July 1, 1931, in Oak Park, Ill., Jeanette Marie Flaherty was one of three children of Richard and Lillian Horn Flaherty. She attended St. Angela Grade School and Providence High School, both in Chicago. She entered the Congregation July 22, 1950, and received the religious name Sister Margaret Therese. She professed first and perpetual vows Jan. 23, 1953, and 1958, respectively. Sister Jeanette earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, a master’s degree in school business management from Northern Illinois University and a master’s degree in theological studies from Catholic Theological Union, Chicago.

Sister Jeanette commenced teaching at St. Jude, Fort Wayne, Ind. Her other Indiana classrooms were Cathedral Grade School, Indianapolis, and St. Paul, Sellersburg. In Illinois, she ministered at St. Mel-Holy Ghost and St. Mel, Chicago, and St. Dennis, Lockport. She also taught on the East Coast at St. Ann, Washington, D.C., and Holy Redeemer, College Park, Md.

In 1973, Sister Jeanette began ministering in business management, starting as a bookkeeper for the Passionist Provincial Office, Chicago. She served two years on the provincial staff for St. Joseph Province, River Grove, Ill. Following this, she returned to the Passionist Provincial Office as the assistant provincial treasurer. She ministered as the business manager at Marillac Social Center and St. Genevieve Parish, Chicago. From 1991 to 1997, Sister Jeanette worked as a finance director for the Kenosha Dominicans, Kenosha, Wis. From 2000 to 2003, she ministered as a bookkeeper at St. Viator Parish and Christian Churches Caring, Chicago. After this, she spent several months volunteering at St. Mary-of-the-Lake School, Chicago, before caring for her sister.

“These are some facts of Sister Jeanette’s life, but they do not tell us who this woman was,” continued Sister Marie. “They do not speak of her spirit. She was somewhat anonymous or hidden. Many of us knew she was Sister Jeanette, but few knew her heart. If you were among those who did, you know that she had a sweet spirit and a tender heart.

“Whether you knew Sister Jeanette intimately or not, you knew she had a passion for justice in all its forms — a passion that was present in her as early as her high school days where she was already taking part in various justice activities.

“Sister Jeanette had a deep care for those who are without the resources they need. She was always mindful of the poor, working to do what she could to create more just economic structures.

“She had a passion for the care of Earth, manifested both in her love of outdoor activities … and in her efforts to recycle materials … .

“Like the woman in the Gospel who threw in her two coins, Sister Jeanette threw her lot in fully; she gave all she had to living this life faithfully, and there is nothing more anyone could ask of her,” said Sister Marie.

The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Jeanette was celebrated Jan. 21 with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She is survived by her sister, Marilyn Dvorak, Plainfield, Ill., and her brother, Richard, Elmhurst, Ill.

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