Sister Eugene Francis Keaveney
A reading from the Gospel of Matthew:
“The disciples approached Jesus and said, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, ‘Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Who humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.’ ‘See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.’”
Matthew 18:1-5, 10
Mary Elizabeth Keaveney was born to James Keaveney and Bessie Biggons on April 15, 1926, in Everett, Mass. James and Bessie were born in Ireland. Both parents and Sister Eugene Francis’ brother, James, predeceased her. She joined them in heaven on Sept. 23, 2019, said Sister Mary Ann Phelan in her commentary for Sister Eugene Francis, who passed away on Monday, Sept. 23, 2019, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. She was 93 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 74 years.
Sister Mary Ann continued: Mary Elizabeth was baptized and attended elementary and high school at Saint Rose Parish in Chelsea, Mass. She graduated from Saint Rose High School in 1944 and entered the novitiate on Feb. 2, 1945. She spent the first year and a half in the novitiate houses in Washington, D.C., and Rockville, Md. During this time, she received the name Sister Eugene Francis. She then traveled to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods to complete her novitiate preparation, where she professed first and perpetual vows on August 15 1947 and 1952 respectively.
Sister Eugene Francis’ education included a bachelor’s degree in education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, and a master’s degree in education from Rivier College in New Hampshire. She also had a license in elementary education as well as a principal’s license.
During her many years of ministry, Sister Eugene Francis served as teacher and principal in many areas of our country, including Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, the District of Columbia and New Hampshire. Sister Eugene Francis’ ministry for the years of 1947 through 1992 was as teacher or principal in one of the many schools staffed by the Sisters of Providence.
During the year 1992, she was finally able to take care of her own health problems, which had caused her pain through the years. In 1993, Sister Eugene Francis served as receptionist at Providence Retirement Home in New Albany, Ind. The year 1994 found Sister Eugene Francis back doing something she always loved: Working with children, but in a different capacity – that of Foster Parent and as an Adult Education Teacher. Whenever Sister Eugene Francis spoke of this time in this ministry, her face shone with joy. We all knew of the love she had for it. She continued working at Providence Self-Sufficiency Ministries at whatever was needed until 2005 when she returned her to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and ministered to all of us in the various residential services she provided until 2011, when her full-time ministry became that of prayer.
I used the Gospel for the Mass of the Guardian Angels to begin this commentary. It is the one that would be used tomorrow if we weren’t having the funeral liturgy. Having worked with Sister Eugene Francis in a school setting, I can say that she followed the admonition of Christ to remember that the child’s guardian angel is always gazing on the face of God. While I was at St. Anne School, I was in the library part-time, and she would often call me in to her office when one of the young children was sent to see her. The dignity she showed to even the youngest child was beautiful. In reading some of the correspondence in her file, one can tell by the tone of parents, as well as pastors and officials of the Diocese, that was also her way with those with whom she worked.
On Sunday when I was in the midst of writing this commentary, I thought of her when we sang during our entrance song these words, “May we welcome all your people; Help us know that they are you.” Whether Sister Eugene Francis said these words or not, she certainly lived them.
Sister Eugene Francis loved to have fun. She especially liked shopping, eating out and musicals, and thanks to some of her good friends, she got to see several, including “Cats” and “Evita.” Whenever there was a celebration of any kind for any of the sisters, she was there, often helping to prepare the party. She had a great sense of humor. While I was at St. Anne with her, I was working in a parish for the deaf. We wanted to use, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” during Advent, but could not find a recording of it. Sister Eugene Francis sang it on tape so we would have the correct timing to sing it at Mass. Later that evening, she said to me “I must be sure to update my resume to include that I sang for a deaf congregation.”
She was also always interested in our country’s government. You can see from the photos in the back that she was a follower of Ted Kennedy. I was always surprised when we were out that if a Congressman walked past, she would call them by name, and most of the time, they knew her by name, too. The number of letters of praise and commendation in her file to our general officers, the providentials, from parishioners, parents and others with whom she worked is unbelievable. She was seen as a good Sister of Providence who shared our charism with all she met. If you did not know her, you missed a real friend in life.
We will miss you, Eugene, but we rejoice that you are now experiencing the joy which you so richly deserve.
Funeral services for Sister Eugene Francis took place on Tuesday, Oct. 1, and Wednesday, Oct. 2, at the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Eugene Francis in the comment section below.
Memorial contributions in Sister Eugene Francis’ honor may be made to the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
Sister Eugene Francis Keaveney
In Illinois: Teacher, Maternity BVM, Chicago (1947-50); Teacher, St. Joseph, Downers Grove (1950-52).
In Indiana: Teacher, St. John the Baptist, Newburgh (1952-54); Teacher, St. Paul, Sellersburg (1957-59); Receptionist, Providence Retirement Home, New Albany (1993-94); Foster Parent/Adult Education Teacher, Providence Self Sufficiency Ministries, New Albany (1994-96); ABE/GED Instructor Parkview Center, Providence Self Sufficiency Ministries, New Albany (1996-2003); ABE/GED Instructor, Providence Place, Georgetown (2003-05); Residential Services, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2005-06); Volunteer, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2006-11); Prayer, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2011-2019).
In Massachusetts: Teacher, Sacred Heart, Malden (1954-55); Teacher, St. Polycarp, Somerville (1955-57); Teacher, Sacred Heart, Malden (1959-60); Teacher, St. Rose, Chelsea (1966-67); Teacher/Vice Principal, Sacred Heart, Malden (1967-68); Principal, Cheverus, Malden (1968-78).
In Maryland: Teacher/Principal, St. Clement, Lansdowne (1960-66).
Washington, D.C.: Teacher, St. Ann (1978-79); Principal, St. Ann (1979-92).
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Thank you, Sister Mary Ann, for telling me more about my beloved 6th grade religion teacher. It was a blessing to reconnect with her a few years ago and to visit her when I was at the Woods. I will miss her wonderful smile but know she is at peace.
I worked with Sr. Eugene as the grant manager at the Indiana Dept. of Education for the ABE/GED program. She was responsible for compiling and submitting the quarterly and annual program reports. We had many phone calls about the reports, and she was so conscientious. I always appreciated her attitude of gratefulness for the grant money and the time I gave to help her get the reports right. It was my pleasure, of course, to get her phone calls, because they really made my day. I loved going to New Albany and West Terre Haute to observe the programs and hear how the students and the Sisters were doing. Even after I left that job, I stayed in touch with Sr. Eugene, and introduced her to my husband. We loved her laugh, her eastern accent, her smile, and her stories. She *will* be resting in peace, I’m sure, with Sr. Barbara Ann Zeller who was such a good friend of hers. Sr. Eugene will stay in my heart always.
Dear Sister Mary Ann Phelan I beleive you lived on Second Ave. in Landsdowne and attended St. Clements. My parents, Bob & Rose Keefer knew your family. I went to St. Clements from 1955 to 1963. Sr. Eugene Francis was a wonderful nun and I always wondered how she was,thank you for your commentary. When I was in the 7th grade the second grade teacher,Mrs. Treffner was out sick and she asked me to fill in for her,I was thrilled. I didn’t become a teacher but I was a pre school teacher and for 20 years I had my own home day care. I always said because of her I loved working with children. May she rest in peace. Thank you again.