Thursday, 2 October 2014

Flanagan’s legacy—from sinners to saints

If Father Larry’s involvement, with fellow priests in the Carmelite community of Manhattan, in providing refuge to exiled rebels and more than likely having knowledge of weapons destined for the Irish revolution hidden in the cellars of their New York churches during the late 1910s and early 1920s, could be described as falling outside of the basic teachings of Jesus Christ and indirectly breaking the Old Testament commandment, ’thou shall not kill’ (excepting justification in a liberation theology framework I shall explore later), all of this it seems was to become past history immediately after Irish independence in 1921 and Flanagan himself spent the rest of his life promoting the good works of the church in America, facilitating education of the young and the care of the sick and poor of New York and other US cities.    

Part of Lawrence Flanagan’s personal legacy was his part in establishing a community of Carmelite Sisters in New York. This article online, submitted by Sister Mary Gabriel, O.Carm., and written by Joan M. Fredericks, mentions his influence:
Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm Celebrate Diamond Jubilee of Foundation

On September 3, 1929, we’re sure that the seven Sisters who had just moved into Saint Elizabeth’s vacant rectory, never dreamed that in 2004, their names would be immortalized in the many Sisters who had followed them on the road to Carmel celebrating the “Diamond” Jubilee of the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm! Many of us who are still around to tell the tale, can hardly believe that the years have passed so quickly. 

In 1936 the Community was still not too well known. What attracted young vocations was the fact that it was “Carmelite.” Here were Carmelites you could see face to face. Some families would not hear of the cloister. But here were “Carmelite” Sisters who were in an active apostolate— the care of the elderly and Infirm. 

Mother Angeline McCrory
From the beginning, Mother Angeline Teresa and her six companions were most grateful to Very Reverend Lawrence Dionysius Flanagan, O.Carm., first Commissary Provincial and then Prior Provincial of the Saint Elias Province. When Mother Angeline told him what Cardinal Hayes had said to her, “You might have to start a new community,” Father Lawrence said, “Why don’t you become Carmelites?”

He also told her he would bring the Prior General, Most Reverend Elias Magennis, O.Carm., to visit her when he came to the United States. When he came, he was so impressed with the group and worked on the affiliation as soon as he returned to Rome. It was granted on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, July 16, 1932.

Through this affiliation, many graces have come to the Congregation of Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm for the past 75 years. When the 75th Anniversary was approaching, Mother Mary Suzanne, O.Carm., the Superior General, convened a committee who were assigned the task of organizing and implementing a year-long celebration during the year 2003- 04. Celebrations were encouraged in each of the communities and residences of the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm.

Several mini and three major celebrations occurred. The first was the Opening Celebration for the year. The second major celebration took place at Saint Teresa’s Motherhouse in Germantown, New York, on Sunday, September 12, 2004, the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary. God blessed us with ideal weather and the chapel was filled to capacity with visiting sisters from almost every community, Carmelite friars including pre-novices, novices and students, members of Mother Angeline McCrory’s family, and other friends.

Father Michael Kissane, O.Carm., Prior Provincial of the Saint Elias Province was the principle celebrant and homilist. He was joined by concelebrants, Father Romaeus Cooney, O.Carm., Father Timothy Ennis, O.Carm. and Father Joseph Mahon, C. P. Among the visiting sisters were the Sparkill (NY) Dominicans.

When Mother Angeline Teresa and her companions started the Congregation, it was the Sparkill Dominican Sisters who gave them hospitality and aided them in making their first habits in the new community. Mother Angeline never forgot their kindness.

At the Jubilee dinner in Carmel Hall, Father Romaeus Cooney, O.Carm., gave the following toast in honor of the 75th Anniversary, 

“In nineteen hundred twenty nine, A new ray of light began to shine; As Mother Angeline and a small band Started a new ministry in our land. ‘Well, who knows,’ did the Cardinal say, ‘Perhaps you may lead the way.’ As many others may follow someday To share your vision for the sick and grey. And so the little group, with a vision grand, From the Bronx and Manhattan began to expand. Nursing homes and centres with manors they manned, In the States and in Holy Ireland! Throughout the years they have been blest, For the aged and infirm — they are the best. As they took to heart the Foundress’ request To treat each person as a guest. To Mother Suzanne and Sisters all Who have answered Carmel’s call, Happy Seventy-fifth Jubilee! We look forward to celebrating your centenary! “

The Closing Celebration began at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City on Saturday, the 23rd of October, 2004. Most Reverend Robert A. Brucato, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of New York, officiated at the filled-to-capacity Mass. Sisters joined the procession by carrying three banners representing the 75 years of the Community’s  existence.

In the background of all three banners were the names of all the foundations as well as other sentinel events of the Congregation. The first banner represented the first 25 years showing Mother Angeline and her six companions above their first foundation, Saint Patrick’s Home in the Bronx, New York. The second banner portrayed “Avila”, the beloved home to all of the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm and the statue found in Saint Teresa’s Chapel of our patroness, Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The third banner depicted a sculpture of “old people” and the rendering of the newest facility named in honour of Mother Angeline—“Mother Angeline McCrory Manor.”

Father Mario Esposito, O.Carm., Postulator for the Cause of the Servant of God, Mother M. Angeline Teresa McCrory, O.Carm., was the homilist. The Holy Eucharist was celebrated in style with a choir of angels and golden trumpets. The celebration was just what Mother Angeline would have wanted as she so loved the Holy Eucharist and all it embodied.

After the conclusion of the Mass, more than 900 people stepped out onto the glorious, sunny sidewalks of Manhattan and made way to the Hotel Pierre where a grand and gracious luncheon reception was waiting. Following the delicious fare, Mother Mary Suzanne, O.Carm. spoke to the group about the past 75 years and the hopes and dreams for the next 25.

A highlight of the afternoon was a presentation made by Father Michael Kissane, O.Carm., who symbolized the first meeting of Mother Angeline McCrory and Father Lawrence Flanagan during the triduum of the Little Flower, Saint Therese of Lisieux on October 3, 1929, when he gave Mother Angeline a bouquet of red roses which she took as a sign for the future.

Father Michael presented Mother Suzanne with a bouquet of red roses with the wish that the close relationship enjoyed between he Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm and the Carmelite Friars of the Saint Elias Province would continue for another 75 years.

A special Apostolic Blessing was unveiled and presented to Mother Suzanne and the Sisters commemorating their 75 Years of Foundation. The Papal Blessing was specially hand done with the Carmelite Shield painted on one side. 

A special thanks was given to Father Edmund Caruana, O.Carm., from San Alberto (CISA) in Rome, and for his assistance in securing the Blessing and having it personally signed by His Holiness, Pope John Paul II.

The Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm have lovingly carried on the work of Mother Angeline. They are well known for their excellent daily care of nearly 5,200 elderly men and women who reside in their 24 long-term care facilities that provide skilled nursing, assisted living, and independent living services in nine states and Ireland. To learn more about the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm, you can visit their website:

There is a strong campaign in the Catholic church for the beatification of Mother Angeline McCorry, the Northern Irish/Scottish Carmelite sister whom Father Lawrence Flanagan invited to establish the Carmelite sisters community in the Bronx and Manhattan and gave her a symbolic bouquet of red roses on October 3, 1929. Another article online puts forward the case for making Mother Angeline McCrory a saint:

Possible saints: Mother Angeline McCrory

Brigid McCrory was born in 1893 to a Catholic family in Northern Ireland. The family emigrated from there to Scotland when she was 8. When she was 19, Brigid entered the Little Sisters of the Poor, whose mission then, as now, was to care for the indigent elderly. She received the name Sister Angeline Teresa of St. Agathe.

After professing her vows, Sister Angeline was assigned to a home in Brooklyn, arriving in the United States in 1915. After nine years of caring for the sick and begging for food for the sisters and their patients, she was named superior of Our Lady’s Home in the Bronx. Now Mother Angeline, she was responsible for 18 sisters and 200 elderly residents.

The rule for the Little Sisters was that their homes must accept only the indigent poor, but Mother Angeline interpreted “poor” broadly, welcoming elderly people who had some money but no companionship or joy. When the mother general visited from France in 1927, she ordered Mother Angeline to adhere strictly to the rule.

Mother Angeline prayed about the situation and held discussions with others, trying to discern what she should do. Two years later, and after two official canonical visitations, she decided that she was called to leave the Little Sisters and found a new community. Along with six other sisters, she departed from the community.

New York’s Cardinal Patrick Hayes gave the sisters the old rectory of St. Elizabeth Parish, and the sisters moved there on Sept. 3, 1929. They considered that date as the community’s foundation day. 

Two years later, Mother Angeline asked Father Lawrence Flanagan, provincial of the Carmelite Province of New York, if the sisters could affiliate with the Carmelite Order. He approved, as did Cardinal Hayes, and on July 16, 1931, the Church recognized the foundation of the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm. The new order’s constitution received papal approval in 1957.

The Carmelites moved into St. Patrick’s Home in the Bronx. As both the number of sisters and the elderly continued to grow, the sisters expanded St. Patrick’s Home seven times during the next four decades. In 1947, they moved their motherhouse to Avila-on-the-Hudson in Germantown, N.Y., 100 miles north of New York City.

Mother Angeline served as superior general of the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm for almost half a century, from 1929 to 1978. During that time, the order grew to more than 300 sisters serving in 50 sites in 30 dioceses in the United States, plus one each in Ireland and Scotland.

Mother Angeline wrote, “We all know that labor done for God is high and holy, but it must not replace habitually the spiritual exercises of the Rule. We must, as Carmelites, lead a contemplative and active life, giving the required time to prayer which is more important than our work.”

She died on her 91st birthday in 1984, after 14 years as a Little Sister of the Poor and 55 years as a Carmelite. †

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