Sister Regis McNulty
A reading from Matthew 14:13-21
When Jesus disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with compassion for them, and he cured their sick.
When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”
Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” Then he said, “Bring them here to me,” and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.
Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over – twelve wicker baskets full.
If you spent any time with Regis, you know she loved to eat. But Regis did not just eat; she relished food and savored it. Sister Carolyn Glynn tells of picking Regis up and driving down to Revere Beach, and sitting on the seawall eating fried clams. “We’d also go to my sister Rosemary’s house for pan-fried smelts. Rosemary loved Regis and used to tell me, ‘That one is REAL.’” At Signature Health Care, Regis always made sure others had food as well, before she would indulge. And sometimes the only way to get her out of bed from her afternoon nap was bribery; for me, usually a piece of apple pie worked. And without fail, she would want to share it, pushing it toward me to take a bite too, said Sister Ann Casper in her commentary for Sister Regis McNulty, who passed away on Friday, December 4, 2020, at Signature Health Care, Terre Haute, Indiana. She was 92 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 72 years.
Sister Ann continued: And Regis’ life exemplified Jesus’ message to his disciples, “Give them something to eat yourselves.” Regis gave herself wholeheartedly to life and to the people she served. Like Jesus, her heart was often “moved with compassion” as she shared her insights, her knowledge, her humor, and her sensitivity.
Dorothy Marie McNulty was born to James and Mary Loeman McNulty on September 10, 1928, in Chelsea, Mass. Her brother Raymond and her sister Connie preceded her in death. When she was 2-years-old, so her mother told her, little Dorothy won a contest as the “baby with the prettiest blue eyes,” a trait she flaunted even years later, adding to the story that her favorite color was blue.
Dorothy was educated by the Sisters of Providence at St. Rose Grade and High School in Chelsea, Mass. She worked after graduation and all the time she was working, her mother advised her to save her money so she could buy a fur coat, the fashion of that era. So, Regis very carefully did save her money, using her savings to buy clothing and other articles and to pay her travel from Boston to enter the Sisters of Providence Maryhurst novitiate in Rockville, Md. – against her mother’s wishes. She entered the Congregation on Feb. 11, 1948, and was given the religious name of Regis. She professed first and perpetual vows on Aug. 15, 1950, and 1955, respectively. And yes, her mother eventually came to acceptance.
Regis earned her bachelor’s degree in education from St. Mary-of-the-Woods College, a master’s degree in Psychology from Boston College and a second master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Antioch University in New Hampshire.
Regis ministered in schools as a teacher in Indiana, Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina and New Hampshire for 28 years. For 31 years, she ministered at Beech Hill Hospital in Dublin, N.H., established in 1948 as a 140-bed alcohol and other addictions treatment hospital. A woman in recovery herself, she became an alcohol and drug specialist at Beech Hill. She held several positions in the Therapy Department: Assistant Director of Therapy, Clinical Supervisor, and Clinical Manager. She developed and implemented the Stress Management Program and focus groups for gambling addictions. Over time, she became a Certified Addiction Specialist.
Outside of Beech Hill, and for varying lengths of time, Regis was an adjunct faculty member at Antioch/New England University and Keene State College. She also served as a member of a National Task Force on Addictions, focused on studying alcoholism and other addictions as they pertained to religious communities of women. She was sought-after nationally as a keynote speaker and workshop facilitator in her areas of expertise. Near the conclusion of her apostolate, Regis was presented a life achievement award by the New Hampshire Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors, recognizing her many years of accomplishment in the fields of addiction and education.
Whether serving in the educational or the medial field, by all accounts, Regis was a great teacher, a former student calling her the “best teacher I ever had.” Another saying that, “She was strict but fair, an excellent teacher. I’ll never forget her.”
Robert Matthews, whom Regis taught in fifth and again in eighth grade at Cheverus School in Malden, Mass., wrote in a letter to Regis two years ago: “From elementary school through my Ph.D., I have been lucky enough to have had five educators who taught me lasting lessons, and you have always been on the short list. You taught me math and writing skills and gave me a solid moral foundation.”
Another former student, Sandy McCanna, recalled, “Sister Regis was such an amazing teacher and leader. What a force – she was funny, outspoken and brave. I was one of the lucky students in her eighth-grade class at St. Dennis in Lockport, Ill. She encouraged all of us to be future oriented, honest and caring.”
Paul’s memory of Regis goes back 42 years when they met at Beech Hill Hospital in Dublin. He says, “At first I had no idea she was a nun. She revealed it to me after a month or so. I was dumbfounded, but at the same time it made sense. She was such a beautiful soul: A Boston Irishwoman if there ever was one. I say that with a love for Regis. We worked together for close to 20 years, and shared a deep commitment to our recovery.”
Perhaps most importantly, Regis was a leader and a staff member who had a unique perspective, for the time, on women in leadership positions and who became a trusted confidante to many Beech Hill staff, both women and men. Her wisdom and maturity were respected and sought after.
Kathy, a colleague from Beech Hill Hospital, commented, “Many times in my life Regis lives on! She taught me so much. My first memory of her is when I met her, when she herself was a patient. I was in early sobriety and visiting as an AA member. She was sitting outside by the pool and we talked. In those days, I was terrified I would pick up again if I did anything that made me feel guilty. I was thinking that maybe I should go in a convent where I couldn’t do anything wrong. When Regis told me she was a nun, my theory was blown!”
Judith, a former Beech Hill Hospital co-worker wrote, “I remember how respected Regis was by the patients and staff and how effective. I laugh when I think of her office. Such a mess! She taught me it was what my spirit was on the inside that spread joy and love in the world of recovery, not what ‘things’ looked like. She’s the only nun I’ve ever hugged.”
Other random comments from Beech Hill colleagues included: “I had the utmost respect and fondness for Regis”; “I have such gratitude for being her co-worker and friend”’ I loved the many laughs we shared”; “I learned so much from her”; “I remember that she knew when to be tough and when to be tender”; “I was scared of her at first and then saw so much more as I got to know her”; “I loved her young 70-plus-spirit that went kayaking with me”; “She helped me so much emotionally and spiritually at a very difficult time in my family”; and finally, “I loved that woman and her hearty laugh!”
John McPeake, at the time Senior Vice President of Clinical Programs, wrote, “Sister Regis brought to the Therapy Department at Beech Hill Hospital a deep understanding and commitment to our mission. Regis contributed markedly in bringing a good institution to a moment in time when it was a great institution.” She was always a team player and had that great marker of intellect – a sense of humor.
Regis did have a quick wit and a marvelous sense of humor which often came to her rescue when she found herself in tight situations. She loved to tell the story of arriving at Lady Isle, a property the sisters owned in Portsmouth, N.H., to enjoy the summer sun and to take a swim. Unbeknownst to her, there was an event going on, hosted by her provincial superior, with many prominent school supporters as the invitees. Regis was attired for swimming, with a broad rimmed sun hat, flip flops, and a beach robe covering her swimsuit. She was barely out of her car when the provincial supervisor, Sister Anna Rose, descended upon her, lest she start mingling. Before Anna Rose could say a word, Regis declared, “I’m so sorry; I forgot my white gloves.” Needless to say, there was no ocean dip for Regis that day.
Louise, whom many of us know as Regis’ dear friend and faithful visitor to the Woods through the years, said, “Regis was one of my closest friends and professional colleagues. We shared a deep commitment to the spiritual life and we also enjoyed barbecue, ice cream, visits to Maine and lovable pets. We will meet again but I miss her now.”
As Regis’ healthcare agent for the past eight years, Sister Marsha, too, was a faithful and dedicated friend, who also had a unique perspective. She experienced heartache in seeing Regis’ gradual loss of health and independence. She commented, “Yet even, and maybe especially, from this place she taught me better how to lead with my heart, to live in the present moment and not to take oneself too seriously. I am deeply grateful for her friendship and trust.”
Regis, thanks from all of us for all those treasured memories! Your friend Sister Sharon Richards hoped that a beautiful Irish setter with a tail wagging came to meet you as you joined God, Mother Theodore and all your deceased loved ones in heaven. We know you will enjoy the banquet God has prepared for you!
Funeral services for Sister Regis took place on Thursday, December 17, 2020, in the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana.
A Virtual Wake took place at 10:30 a.m., followed by Funeral Liturgy without Eucharist at 11 a.m.
We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Regis in the comment section below.
Memorial contributions may be made in honor of Sister Regis to the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
Sister Regis McNulty
In Illinois: Teacher, St. David, Chicago (1950-52); Teacher, St. Athanasius, Evanston (1952-53); Teacher, St. Andrew, Chicago (1953-54); Teacher, Our Lady of Mercy, Chicago (1958-59); Teacher, St. Dennis, Lockport (1962-63).
In Indiana: Teacher, St. Ann, Terre Haute (1954-55); Addictions Consultant/Volunteer, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2013-14); Prayer, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2015-2020).
In Massachusetts: Teacher, Sacred Heart, Malden (1955-58); Teacher, Sacred Heart, Malden (1959-62); Teacher, St. Patrick, Stoneham (1963-65).
In North Carolina: Principal/Teacher, St. Patrick, Fayetteville (1965-72); Teacher, Charlotte Catholic High School, Charlotte (1972-73); Principal, St. Joan of Arc, Asheville (1973-74).
In New Hampshire: Teacher, Lady Isle, Portsmouth (1974-78); Counselor, Mana. Area Pastoral Coun., Keene (1981-82); Assistant Director of Therapy, Beech Hill Hospital, Dublin (1982-90); Clinical Supervisor/Manager, Beech Hill Hospital, Dublin (1990-93); Senior Therapist, Beech Hill Hospital, Dublin (1993-99); Consultant in Behavioral Health, Beech Hill Hospital, Dublin (1999-2007); Adjunct Faculty Member, Antioch New England Graduate School, Keene (1996-2007); Therapist/Consultant in Behavioral Health and Addictions, Marlborough (2007-12).
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