Sr. Bridget (Mary) Phelan
1913 – 2012
Mary Phelan was born on November 14, 1913, in Ironmills, Cappawhite, County Tipperary, Ireland. The oldest of seven children born to John Phelan and Mary Fitzgerald, Mary and her siblings grew up and helped out on the family farm. She attended Anacarty National School for her elementary education.
It was on May 12, 1933, that Mary entered the Daughters of the Cross in Shreveport, Louisiana. The following year she received the habit and her religious name, Sister Mary Bridget. On August 24, 1935, Sister pronounced temporary vows and made her perpetual profession on August 24, 1938. She completed her education and earned a Bachelor of Education degree at St. Vincent’s College in 1945 and spent most of her life as a teacher. In 1964, Sister Bridget received a master’s degree in education from St. Louis University.
As an educator, Sr. Bridget taught elementary school at St. Mary’s, St. Vincent, St. John, St. Catherine, and St. Theresa in Shreveport; at Sacred Heart in Moreauville; at St. Patrick in Lake Providence; at St. Matthew and at Jesus the Good Shepherd in Monroe. Her high school teaching experience was at St. Frederick High School in Monroe.
Along with several others of the Daughters of the Cross, Sr. Bridget, at age 84 and retired from active ministry, transferred to the Marianites in 1997. In her August 27, 1997, letter to Sr. Mary Kay Kinberger, then the Marianites’ superior general, Bridget wrote, “There is nothing I desire more than making my perpetual profession as a Marianite of Holy Cross and I feel ready to make that final step and be a member of the community as soon as possible.”
As a resident of St. Joseph Convent in New Orleans for almost eight years, Sr. Bridget prayed for the needs of the community and maintained her interest in sports. In her younger years, Bridget had helped to organize and coach an elementary sports team. She followed several sports, but she especially cheered for the New Orleans Saints, the LSU Tigers, and, of course, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Sister was moved to Prompt Succor Nursing Home and lived there until her death on January 18, 2012. Sr. Bridget was interested in everything and noticed the little changes that were made in the decor of her surroundings at Prompt Succor.
Both at St. Joseph’s and at Prompt Succor, Sister’s niece and nephew came all the way from Ireland to visit her; they brought joy both to their aunt and to the other sisters with whom they quickly made friends.
A severe attack of pneumonia sent Sr. Bridget to Opelousas General Hospital shortly before the New Year. Ten days later, she returned to the nursing home on Hospice. For the next week, her Marianite sisters took turns sitting with Bridget and praying for Sister’s happy death. Her Lord came quietly for Bridget during the early morning hours of January 18, 2012.
Her wake and funeral took place on Friday, January 20 in Prompt Succor Nursing Home Chapel, presided over by Father Bart, SVD. One of the stories told prior to the funeral Mass recounted how Sr. Bridget had asked for only one gift several Christmases earlier. She wanted a red sweater, a “really RED” sweater. Once she received it, she wore it practically every day that followed. She loved her sweater so much that, at her funeral, the red sweater went into the coffin with Sr. Bridget.
Sister is survived by one sister, Sr. Finbarr Phelan of England, and by several nieces and nephews. Her body reposes in St. Landry Cemetery, Opelousas, LA.
May Sister Bridget’s soul rest in peace.