Sister Mary Patrick O’Halloran

Alice O'Halloran
1857 - 1890

Alice O’Halloran called in religion, Sister Mary Patrick, was born in Galway, Ireland, of pious and worthy Catholic parents who settled in Holyoke, Mass. about the year 1874. Feeling a strong attraction for the religious life she entered the Providence Novitiate, November 30, 1880, being then twenty-one years of age.

Young, full of hope, and of a most refined character she devoted herself generously to the works of charity; but it was particularly among the orphans that her spirit of zeal and self-sacrifice was most conspicuous.

In February, 1882, she was admitted to the Holy Habit, shortly after which she was sent to the mission of Holyoke, where she remained some months. Even at this early period of her religious career ill-health was fast developing itself, swollen knees and other ailments confined her to the Infirmary for many weeks. However, Sister’s condition did not interfere with her perseverance in her holy vocation, and our ardent novice was brought to a full realization of her desires on October 30, 1883, by being permitted to make her Religious Profession. Soon after the expiration of her Novitiate, Sister Mary Patrick returned to her missionary labours at Mount St. Vincent, Holyoke, and it was from this time until her death which occurred December 30, 1890, that she distinguished herself in the faithful discharge of every duty of charity.

She was in charge of the Orphan Boys, and had wonderful control, for they loved and respected her. Their little wants had her kindest attention. Animated by faith in the services she rendered them, she was as respectful and polite in treating with them as though they were of mature years and royal blood.

It was surprising, even amusing to an observer, to notice the attention she bestowed upon the youngest and rudest, the politeness in speech and bearing; nor was this without its effect upon her little flock.

It was even thought that she gave herself too closely to her charge considering her delicate health, for her solicitude followed those thoughtless children, even when relieved of duty. Their morals, their habits, were her constant care. Nor could it be said that Sister Mary Patrick had aptitude for that charge alone. When employed in teaching and the care of the Chapel she brought the same painstaking efforts.

She was eager to make herself capable of imparting knowledge to her pupils while her piety found active expression in the beautiful care she gave the Chapel. Our lady’s shrine was never more lavishly decked with sweet May flowers than during the season our dear Sister had it in charge, and the director of the retreat that year remarked more than once, that he was greatly edified by the piety which the Sister Sacristan displayed in her care and arrangement of the altar.

It was evident to all that Sister Mary Patrick would not live long and her Superiors could not fail to admire the cheerfulness with which she discharged her duties, under sufferings which would have caused others to relinquish every charge. Her last illness was short; one month previous to her death she was taken down with an attack of gastritis; but she had no thought of any serious consequences resulting there from. She hoped to return to her charge, and indeed the physician found her improving so steadily that he held out hope of her being in her usual health very soon. Her sickness however took a fatal turn, and it was thought well to have the last Sacraments administered. Accordingly the confessor came, and by a special favour of Heaven the disturbance of her stomach was arrested, so that she was able to receive the Holy Viaticum, and not for some days after could it, at any hour be  given her.

Suffering greater than hers could not be endured; for five days and nights she vomited incessantly, but exhausted nature withdrew from the struggle some thirty-six hours before death, so that she had comparative ease. Her patience during those days and nights of suffering never deserted her, she was conscious until the last breath, her piety was edifying in the extreme; her beautiful ejaculatory prayers ever on her lips gave evidence of her close union with God: “O Lord increase my faith!” was her constant petition and her last effort was to make the sign of the cross.

Almost continuously for twenty-four hours preceding her death the Sisters surrounded her bed-side and offered up fervent petitions in her behalf. It needed no urging to sustain a constant chorus of prayers, they loved her and with unfeigned sorrow, saw her end approaching while she was yet in the spring-time of her life. Those who had the privilege of attending that death-bed know by actual observation, the happiness and security of having lived up to one’s religious obligations and the holy memory of Sister Mary Patrick’s dying hours must have an influence for good, on all who saw her expire. Surely our Blessed Lady as our dear Sister loved to  call her, must have welcomed this pure spirit to realms, and presented her to the Spouse of chaste souls, for amid her many natural and acquired virtues it were hard to say which predominated: charity to the poor, devotion to Mary, love of holy purity, devotion to her religious vocation. All these shone conspicuously in her character and though she was naturally proud and sensitive to a degree known only by her Superiors, she was remarkable for her spirit of charity and gentleness. Few they were indeed whose feelings had ever been hurt by our dear Sister Mary Patrick.

She was interred in St. Jerome’s Cemetery at Holyoke, and the Clergy who were notified of her death came to the Requiem Mass to bear witness to their respect for the Religious who had laid down her young life for the poor and suffering.

Her death and the consolations attending it were another poof that those who leave all for Christ are abundantly rewarded even in this world with the assurance of eternal joy hereafter.