Sister Agnes (Mary Thomas) Farrell
“I am racing for the finish, for the prize to which God calls us upward to receive in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)
“The person of Christ was the lodestone of St. Paul’s life; and pursuit of him was a constant toward which he raced. Sister Agnes Farrell might not have used Paul’s words, but for her, too, Christ was the center of life. In good days and bad, in joy and in sorrow, to know the Lord was the constant of Sister Agnes’ four score and six years,” said Sister Alexa Suelzer in her commentary for Sister Agnes Farrell, who died Nov. 14.
One of six children of Edward and Lillian (Plourde) Farrell, Agnes Marie came into this world Nov. 12, 1922, in Tewksbury, Mass. She began elementary school at Spaulding & Foster in Tewksbury. The family moved to California to join their father who was in the Navy. Agnes Marie finished her elementary school at St. Matthew, Long Beach, Calif. She attended high school at Wilson in Long Beach and graduated from Hoover, San Diego.
Agnes Marie entered the Congregation in Marywood, Anaheim, Calif., on Sept. 24, 1940, receiving the religious name Sister Mary Thomas. “Her postulant uniform didn’t fit her so she spent weeks in a green dress topped by a black cape,” shared Sister Alexa.
Sister Agnes professed first and perpetual vows Aug. 15, 1943, and 1949, respectively. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a master’s teacher degree in education/history from Loyola University, Los Angeles.
Sister Agnes commenced teaching in 1943 at St. Therese, Alhambra, Calif. Most of her more than three decades of teaching were spent in California at St. Elisabeth, Van Nuys; St. Anthony, Gardena; St. Joseph, Hawthorne; and St. Therese, Los Angeles. In Indiana, her classrooms included Holy Trinity, New Albany; St. Andrew and Holy Spirit, Indianapolis; and All Saints, Hammond. She also spent one year at St. John, Robstown, Texas.
In 1976, she began a new ministry when she enrolled in CPE classes at Sutter Hospital, Sacramento, Calif. For 15 years she ministered as a chaplain at Mercy San Juan Hospital, Carmichael, Calif. She retired in 1993 and provided school service at St. Anthony, Gardena, Calif., for the next 12 years.
“Sister Agnes was a good companion — loved to cook and loved to party. She was blessed with a wonderful memory and a gift for telling stories. Through the goodness of a community friend many happy days were spent each year camping in the Tahoe National Forest. The sister campers piled in an old Army jeep and traveled over hill and dale in all kinds of weather. Sister Agnes was the chef and chief procurer of supplies — a great hostess, whether camping or at home,” continued Sister Alexa.
“When Sister Agnes retired as chaplain, she decided it was time for an adventure. So she took a long freighter cruise to Australia and spent weeks at sea renewing her energy. St. Anthony’s in Gardena was the scene of her retirement for the next dozen years. Here she was an effective counselor to the ‘special challenges’ who were sent to her from the principal’s office. She was also able to stay close to her family members and their children,” said Sister Alexa.
“Continuing illness brought Sister Agnes back for health care at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 2005. ‘Getting back to California’ was the goal she fought for — and finally attained. Alas, the ailing body did not match the fighting spirit. In 2007, she made her last trip across the continent back to the Woods and Mother Theodore Hall. Now she is no longer racing for the finish, but she has obtained the prize for which God has called her — and all of us — to life on high in Christ Jesus,” concluded Sister Alexa.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Agnes was celebrated Nov. 19, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She is survived by one sister, Betty McKiben, and one brother, Paul, both of whom reside in Salinas, Calif.
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