Sister Laurine Haley
I am going to begin this commentary with some words from Sister Laurine herself:
“It was a cold wintry day in Malden, Massachusetts. Ma and Pa (Walter M. Haley and Margaret Kelley) and children – Walter, Ruth, Jeanne, and Thomas – were excitedly waiting for the new baby who was soon to be born. The scenario was all set up: Walter (aka Buddy) and Ruthie were off to Cheverus School, Jeanne and Tommy were upstairs being cared for by Nana Haley. Ma and Pa were on their way to Melrose Hospital. Sometime before noon, I arrived on the scene – not a bouncing baby but a weak infant with many medical problems. Doctor Staples took good care of me. Because of my physical condition, he asked my mother if she would like me baptized since I was not expected to make it. Of course, Ma agreed so I was baptized immediately. This message was even more difficult for my parents to hear as just a couple of years earlier, they had lost a 4-year-old boy, “Little Tommy.” My mother made a quick decision when she said to the doctor, “If my baby is going to die, I am taking her home and she will die in my arms at home,” said Sister Mary Ann Phelan in her commentary for Sister Laurine Haley, who passed away on Monday, Sept. 6, 2021, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. She was 93 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 76 years.
Sister Mary Ann continued with Sister Laurine’s words: “My 6-year old sister Ruth was at school in Sister Rose Francis’ first grade class and she asked Sister to pray and ask the other sisters to pray for her baby sister who was very sick. Thanks be to God and all those who prayed for me.
“As I became a little older, I learned another story about my day of birth. Many of us remember the days of little boxes where we could place coins to help the foreign missions. On that day, Nana gave Ruthie a quarter for this box. In the primary grades, the children were told that by donating their pennies, they could adopt a baby who would then be helped by the missionaries. It just so happened that my sister Ruthie’s coin brought the total in the box to the amount needed for an adoption. When I got home from the hospital, Ruthie told the class that the Chinese baby they adopted was at her house. Six years later when I went to school and was in Sister Rose Francis’ class, she called me her Chinese baby. My second and third grade teachers, Sister Gertrude Dolores and Sister Mary Inez, continued this practice. By the time I got to fourth grade, Ruthie convinced me that I was not really her sister or a member of the family. My mother had to get a copy of my birth certificate to prove to me that I was not adopted.”
Sister Mary Ann continued: We have just heard the story of Dorothy Catherine Haley’s birth as she related it. Both her mother Margaret Kelley and her father Walter M. Haley were natives of Malden, Massachusetts. She was the youngest child. There were six children, one of whom, Little Tommy, had been killed in an auto accident before her birth. Her sisters Jeanne and Ruth as well as her other brothers, Walter and Thomas, have preceded her in death. She is survived by nieces (Laurine and Gertrude) a nephew (Bobby), niece-in-law (Sue) and several grand-nieces and grand-nephews.
Catherine was baptized at Sacred Hearts Parish in Malden, attended Cheverus, the parish school for both elementary and high school, graduating in June 1945. On July 22, 1945, she entered the Postulancy, which at the time was in Rockville, Maryland, followed by Reception on Jan. 23, 1946. She then arrived at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in June 1946, to complete her novitiate and professed first and final vows on Jan. 23, 1948, and 1953, respectively.
One of Sister Laurine’s favorite psalms was Psalm 63. She said she tried to in her life. She lifted her hands to the Lord by reaching out to those in need. Sister Laurine’s ministry of more than 50 years in education, whether as a teacher, principal, guidance counselor or director of religious education, found her following the call to share God’s love, mercy and justice with all those she served. Her ministries took her to many different areas: Illinois, Massachusetts, Indiana, North Carolina, District of Columbia, New Hampshire and Maryland. In 1998, Sister Laurine came here to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods to “retire” and immediately began to recycle herself in many ways by ministering in several ways, mainly with the sisters, but also in service at Woods Day Care and prayer in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Laurine put herself wholeheartedly into whatever ministries she was called to do. In her own words, if she was given lemons, she made lemonade and lemon meringue pie.
Let us now look at Laurine. Today’s first reading talked about gifts. Anyone who knew Laurine recognized in her gifts of wisdom, understanding and healing of the spirit. She used these gifts in all circumstances of life, not only in the workplace. When Immaculata Prep in Washington, D.C., closed in 1986, she needed a place to live. At that time, Laurine was working at Stone Ridge Country Day School, which was readily available by public transportation. Because she did not drive, she knew she needed to live close to a bus route. One of the teachers with whom she worked told her about a place with apartments for rent within a mile of the school. She then offered to take Laurine there. Laurine’s first thought when she saw the building was this place will be too expensive for someone who is trying to be faithful to her vow of poverty. God will provide, always a part of her belief, was proven that day when she found an apartment owned by a man who had a daughter who is a Maryknoll Sister and he made it very affordable for her. That started a ministry that is not listed anywhere in the list above. One of the first people she met was a woman who had been psychologically abused by her former husband and had no feeling of self-worth. Thanks to Laurine’s help, the woman took some classes and found herself.
Taking everyone where she found them was surely a gift of the Spirit. Later when living in a Senior Apartment Building, Laurine found that many of the residents were from other countries and got along well with each other, with the exception of Russian residents, who seemed to not be integrated. So, she began talking to them in the elevators and learned a few words of Russian so she could be social. In a few months, they had learned some more English by communicating with Sister Laurine and started to take part in more of the activities. On a personal note, when Laurine met my sister and her family (all whom were deaf), she immediately learned enough sign language to have a simple conversation with them. These gifts of listening, hospitality and inclusiveness of all were a hallmark of her life. As a tribute to Sister Laurine’s inclusiveness of all, I will be sign interpreting the Communion hymn, since my nieces who are deaf are watching this on livestream.
Some of the quality’s sisters shared with me during the past week were similar. One sister remembered how friendly Sister Laurine was to her in the novitiate, after realizing that the sister did not really know anyone well. Another shared about how Laurine brought joy to things like washing the pots and pans in Providence kitchen by being kind and helpful. Another said that she admired Laurine’s use of public transportation so that she did not have to inconvenience anyone to drive her. Something that not everybody knows is that Laurine had a real fear of crossing busy streets, which I think may have been a result of hearing how her brother was hit by a car, which makes using public transportation even more amazing. Sheila Donis, a Providence Associate who comes here often to help the sisters make greeting cards, shared the following memory: “Sister Laurine was always smiling. She loved card making and the memory book activity. She was meticulous and she designed each card with attention to detail. When she completed a card, she enjoyed sharing it with others. She never wanted to miss a session.”
Laurine enjoyed traveling. One of her favorite places was spending time in Florida with her sister Jeanne.
They spent hours in the swimming pool as well as doing some small improvements in the pool area together. Laurine truly appreciated all God’s gifts. Another pastime she enjoyed was playing scrabble or a game of cards. She was a true friend in the hard times of life as well as in the enjoyable times. How truly blessed are you for living the beatitudes we heard in today’s Gospel. Thank you for your friendship.
We will miss you, Laurine. When I feel sad, I think of Sister Rose Francis welcoming her beloved Chinese baby to Heaven.
Funeral services for Sister Laurine took place on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, in the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
A Wake took place at 10:30 a.m., followed by Mass of Christian Burial at 11 a.m.
Memorial contributions may be made in honor of Sister Laurine to the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Laurine in the comment section below.
In Illinois: Teacher, Sacred Heart, Lockport (1948-51); Teacher, St. Joseph, Galesburg (1951-52); Nursery, St. Columbkille Day Nursery, Chicago (1953); Teacher, St. Genevieve, Chicago (1953-54).
In Massachusetts: Teacher, Sacred Heart, Malden (1954-55); Teacher, St. Rose, Chelsea (1955-57); Teacher, ST. Polycarp, Somerville (1978-79).
In Indiana: Teacher, Sacred Heart, Evansville (1957-59); Health Care Services Staff, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (1998-2002); Residential Services Staff, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2002-05); Ministry of Care Volunteer/Woods Day Care/Pre-School Receptionist, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2005-10); Ministry of Care Volunteer, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2010-11); Prayer, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2011-14); Prayer/Greeter at Providence Spirituality & Conference Center, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2014-19); Prayer (2020-21).
In North Carolina: Teacher/Principal, St. Ann, Fayetteville (1959-66).
In Washington, D.C.: Teacher, Dunblane (1966-67); Director of Student Services, Jefferson Business College (1982-83).
In New Hampshire: Teacher, St. Mary, Rochester (1967-69); Teacher, St. Mary, Rochester (1970-72).
In Maryland: Guidance Counselor, St. Clement, Lansdowne (1972-73); Director of Religious Education, St. Clement, Lansdowne (1973-78); Teacher, Holy Redeemer, College Park (1979-82); Assistant to Head of Lower School, Stone Ridge Lower School, Bethesda (1983-93); Receptionist, Joseph D. Connor, M.D., Office, Bethesda (1994).
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