Sister Mary Stephen Manning, MSC
Sister Mary Stephen Manning, MSC
Sister Mary Stephen Manning was born May 11, 1925, the third of four children born to Sarah Heffern and John Manning, both of whom had come from County Mayo, Ireland. Baptized Dorothy Cecilia and raised in Jersey City, New Jersey, Sr. Stephen attended Sacred Heart Elementary School and St. Aloysius Academy. After high school she chose to study nursing at St. Joseph’s Hospital School of Nursing in Paterson, New Jersey. All of these schools were run by the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth.
Following graduation, Dorothy worked at St. Francis Hospital in Jersey City and then at French Hospital in Manhattan. It was there that she first met the Marianites of Holy Cross; her vocation was strengthened by her friendship with Sr. Ursula Magee who became her mentor and encouraged her desire to become a religious.
After working with the Marianites for some time, she decided to join their community as a postulant. Dorothy entered the novitiate at Our Lady of Princeton on September 8, 1949. She received the habit and the name Sister Mary Stephen the following year. When she completed her initial formation at Our Lady of Princeton, Sr. Stephen made temporary vows on May 10, 1951, and went once again to minister at French Hospital. It was there that she made final profession on May 10, 1954.
While working at French Hospital, she attended St. John’s University and earned a BSN degree. When the Marianites withdrew from French Hospital in 1963, Sr. Stephen was sent to teach at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Ardsley, NY. Not being a teacher, she was not happy with this experience and survived only with the help of her friend, Sister Alphonsus Moloney. When the opportunity to teach nursing in Altoona, Pennsylvania came along, Stephen happily returned to nursing. She loved getting back to a hospital setting but didn’t like being so far away from the community. She discussed this with Mother Victor and was told to find a job in New Jersey.
Sister Stephen found that job at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Paterson, NJ. That was in September 1968, and she continued to work and volunteer there for the rest of her life. During her career at St. Joseph’s, Sister held several nursing leadership positions. She was Director of Medical Nursing, Director of Central Supply, and then Night Supervisor at St. Vincent’s Nursing Home which is a long term care facility at St. Joseph’s.
Although Sister Stephen lived and worked for forty-six years with the Sisters of Charity, she was always first and foremost a Marianite of Holy Cross. She was very proud of her congregation and had great devotion to Fr. Moreau. Attending his beatification in Le Mans, France, was a highlight of her life and she was thrilled to have been present when the Church officially proclaimed him Blessed.
Sister was also very active in her Marianite local community, never missed a community gathering and was always happy to be with her sisters. Stephen and her friend, Sr. Robert Clare, SC, made several trips to New Orleans to visit and also went to Canada where they had good times with Sister Celine McGillicuddy and her sisters.
One of the things several sisters in the South remember about Sr. Stephen was her ability and availability as a chauffeur. When they traveled to the North, Sr. Stephen would meet them at the airport and drive them to their destination – to Our Lady of Princeton, to Sea Girt, or (in the case of our Irish sisters) to the international airports for their trips to Ireland.
Since both of her parents were from the “old country,” Sr. Stephen was extremely proud of her Irish heritage and loved everything Irish. She had a room full of her souvenirs from Ireland and was a huge fan of Notre Dame Football. Stephen was also involved in the lives of her family. She loved her brother, Tom, and her two sisters, Margaret Hayden and Jeanne Gallagher. Since they lived not far away, Sister was able to be very active in the lives of her eleven nieces and nephews. She helped them to prepare for first Communion and Confirmation, attended all their school and college graduations, and rejoiced at the celebration of their weddings.
Besides being a fan of Notre Dame, Stephen was also a loyal supporter of the Yankees whom she followed with enthusiasm. Sr. Mary Stephen was active until three days before her death. When her severe heart problems were discovered and appeared to be fatal, Sister was made comfortable and slipped peacefully into eternal life on February 3, 2014, at the hospital where she had lived and worked for so long.
As a testimony of their affection for Sr. Mary Stephen, the Sisters of Charity gave permission for the Marianites to hold her viewing and funeral liturgy in Holy Family chapel at their motherhouse in Convent Station, New Jersey. Rev. Martin Rooney, chaplain of St. Joseph’s Hospital for fifteen years, presided at the Mass and gave a moving homily lauding Sister’s love of family, friends, and coworkers. On February 4, 2014, Sr. Mary Stephen Manning’s body was laid to rest in Our Lady of Princeton cemetery amidst a glistening background of frozen trees shining in the bright sunshine. It was as if heaven was extending a special welcome to Sr. Mary Stephen. Her family, the Sisters of Charity, her devoted friend Sr. Robert Clare, and we Marianites will all miss her. And, as Sr. Robert Clare said, “The Yankees, Notre Dame Football, and Lawrence Welk have lost their biggest fan.”
Sr. Mary Stephen, May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sunshine warm your face, the rain fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.