By Rose O’Connor | Correspondent
There are many beautiful and touching quotes to be found about the impact a teacher has on the life of a student, not simply while the student is in his or her class, but certainly in the years beyond. This was unquestionably evident as news of the death of Sister of Mercy Theresina Flannery on Oct. 23 reached her family, friends, former students and members of her religious community, the Sisters of Mercy of New Jersey.
Described as having the “most beautiful and gentle soul,” as being “a great woman and leader,” and a “pearl of great price,” many said the “Tiny Powerhouse” will be greatly missed.
Sister Theresina, 89, was one of nine children born to George and Margaret Flannery in 1927. She was a native of Atlantic City and attended St. Peter School, Pleasantville, and Holy Spirit High School, Atlantic City. Upon graduating in 1944, she entered the Sisters of Mercy while continuing her education at Georgian Court College (now University), Lakewood, and Villanova University, Villanova, Pa., where she graduated with a degree in mathematics.
Sister Theresina began her teaching career in St. John School, Lambertville. Later in Red Bank Catholic High School, she instructed the Caseys for 17 years and later served the school community as vice principal.
In 1969, she returned to Georgian Court, where she taught and served as community director for the Sisters in Temporary Commitment, all the while continuing her studies for spiritual directors in Ontario.
In 1976, Sister Theresina was one of the four founding sisters of Mount St. Mary House of Prayer, Watchung. At the recent 40th anniversary celebration of Mount St. Mary, Sister Theresina was presented with a “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice” Award and a “Cornerstone Award” as a founding sister of the spiritual center that is “dedicated to nourishing adult spiritual growth in an atmosphere of hospitality and prayer.”
Sister Theresina served as director of the House of Prayer for 10 years until she was elected president of the Sisters of Mercy of New Jersey, where she served for two terms.
Following the second term, she returned to Mount St. Mary as co-director and also ministered to those in McAuley Hall Health Care Center, Watchung.
As shared by Mercy Sister Judy Ward, Sister Theresina was “a woman of many gifts.”
“Sister served her community in challenging roles and in dramatic times,” Sister Judy said. “She was a key figure in the development of the House of Prayer from a carriage house to a popular retreat center that attracted members of the laity who formed lasting bonds with the community and one another. She served in leadership during the years just before and after the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas was founded.”
Sister Judy noted that in recent years, Sister Theresina had resided in McAuley Health Care Center, “but remained actively engaged in community consultations and events.”
Sister Theresina is survived by in-laws Alfred Rundio, Margaret Flannery and Dolores Flannery, and many loving nieces and nephews.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated in Mount St. Mary House of Prayer. She was interred in Holy Redeemer Cemetery, South Plainfield.
Memorial donations may be made to Mount St. Mary House of Prayer, 1651 Highway 22 West, Watchung, NJ 07069.