Sister Teresa Connolly (Aloysius) was born in 1920 in Portlaoise, Co. Laois, Ireland, but grew up in Castlerea, Co. Roscommon. Her parents were Bridget (née Kelly) and John Connolly and she was one of a family of six, four girls and two boys. Before joining MMM she worked as a legal secretary in Dublin for two years.
She joined MMM in 1941 when the Congregation was not yet four years old. She had her initial religious formation in Rosemount, Dublin, the only house owned by MMM at that time.
First Missionary Assignment
In September 1943, as she was preparing do her nurse training in St. Vincent’s Hospital, Monsignor (later Bishop) McGettrick in Ogoja, Nigeria, asked for Sisters to help begin services for thousands of people with Hansen’s disease (leprosy). Teresa was assigned with two other Sisters; they sailed in January 1945, while World War II was still raging.
In Nigeria she worked with an Irish doctor, Joseph Barnes. He was pioneering a more holistic approach to the disease. She was a pioneer in the work for the patients, who were living in despair and degradation, outcasts from home and family. Teresa accompanied Dr. Barnes to his outstation clinics when seeking out the sick. She was secretary, bursar and nursing aid and they gave her the name ‘Minister of Supplies’.
In 1948 Sister Teresa returned to Ireland to become MMM Secretary General. This was not a ‘nine to five’ job, as she kept up with Mother Mary ´s boundless energy. She was with Mother as the Novitiate house in Drogheda was burnt down in February 1952. She wrote: ‘I can remember staying at Mother’s side outside, just helpless watching the flames – all this after the terrible exercise of checking all of us present and safe. The words “God giveth; God taketh away. Blessed be His will”, still ring in my ears. During this period of her life she did manage to return to Nigeria (1949-1951).
Assigned to the USA
She was next assigned to promotion work in the USA, where MMM had opened the first foundation there. She ‘arrived with the shamrock’ on 16 March 1952 to 26 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA. She was present for the reception of the first novices in the US and for the purchase of our first house in nearby Winchester. Later that year Sister Magdalen O’Rourke joined Teresa on what was to be her ‘ministry without break’ until December 1966. During that ministry, in 1954, Teresa accompanied Mother Mary on a cross-country journey, introducing MMM and showing the film Visitation.
Outgoing and a good communicator, she travelled all over the country, talking in schools and churches. Sister Carla Simmons from Detroit regards herself as one of Teresa´s vocations as her first contact with MMM was following a school visit. Sister Teresa loved her time in the USA, and following a further assignment to Ireland (1967-77) she returned for another five years. During this time she trained in pastoral ministry in Seattle, WA.
As Sister Teresa´s administrative skills were well known, she was often recalled to minister in Ireland. She worked in Dublin with the Sale of Work committee, moved into finance and was a business administrator in several houses. She was even assigned to Nairobi, Kenya, as Business Administrator for four years (1992-1996). Everywhere she went she was noted for her good humour, her devotion to prayer and her boundless energy. In her later years she did pastoral ministry in Silvertown, London, and in Artane in Dublin. She finally retired to the Motherhouse in Drogheda in 2007 and to Áras Mhuire Nursing Facility in 2012.
In 2020, right in the middle of the COVID- 19 pandemic, she celebrated her 100th birthday. In spite of the restrictions she was able to have a two-day celebration. Shortly after her birthday celebration Sister Teresa´s health deteriorated. She died peacefully on 26 October 2020.
Teresa’s funeral Mass took place in Our Lady of Lourdes Church with family members and some Sisters present. Because of COVID-19 restrictions only 25 people were permitted to attend. At the end of the Mass her nephew Noel and niece Bernadette spoke eloquently about their famous aunt and of the great influence she had on them all while they grew up. May this valiant woman rest in God’s peace.