Remembering Sr. Veronica McCormack, DW, 86, Sr. Elizabeth of Wisdom, 7/23/33 – 8/28/19, 66 Years Professed

Sr. Veronica McCormack entered peacefully into eternal life on August 28, 2019, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Convent in Sound Beach, NY while in the loving care of nurses and staff, and comforted by visits, phone calls and prayers from her community, family and Sisters. Sister is buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Coram, NY.

Sr. Veronica McCormack, DW

Sr. Veronica McCormack, DW

For the past 15 years, Sister Veronica resided at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Convent in Sound Beach, NY, and is fondly remembered as a pleasant, happy person with a kind and loving nature, never too busy to listen to anyone. She retired as the Director of Religious Education at St. Catherine of Genoa in Brooklyn, NY where she spent 19 years. Earlier she served for four years at Brooklyn Haitian Ralph and Good Shepherd Center, where she taught Haitian refugees and others seeking to obtain their GED diplomas.

During the 70s, Sister was the leader of a Charismatic Renewal prayer group at St. Mary Gate of Heaven in Ozone Park, NY, while simultaneously teaching Fourth grade at the school, where she was well-loved as a gifted teacher. Her work in the field of elementary education included serving as the Principal at St. Mary’s in Norfolk, VA for one year, a teacher at Montfort Academy in Fredericksburg, VA for three years, and simultaneously serving as both the Principal and a Kindergarten teacher in Madawaska, Maine for six years. She began her teaching vocation as an elementary school teacher at St. Mary Gate of Heaven, where she taught for five years. Several Montfort Fathers are counted amongst her past students: Bill Considine, Matthew Considine, and Jim Brady.

Born in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, NY to the late Martin and Elizabeth (Meyer) McCormack, Sister moved to Hollis, Queens and then New Hyde Park, NY, where she attended Holy Spirit (Holy Ghost) Grammar School and attended high school at Bishop McDonnell Memorial in Brooklyn, NY. She received her B.S. in Education at St. John’s University in Jamaica, NY, and her Master’s in Education/Reading Specialist at Boston College in MA. She remembers rationing during World War II, which taught her to be frugal and more appreciative. Sister credits her Catholic education, daily Mass and prayer, and her warm memories of the Daughters of Wisdom who taught French class at her high school, as influential in her entry into religious life in 1951, leading to her first profession in 1953. Sister is predeceased by her parents, older sister Patricia, younger brother Martin and nephew Len, and is survived by her sister-in-law Kathy, and four nieces and nephews: Martin, Donna, Pat and Martin.

Reflecting on the Life of Sr. Veronica McCormack, DW

Sr. Catherine Sheehan, DW

Sr Veronica McCormack.jpg

Thank you all for celebrating Sr. Veronica’s life.  The wake prayer service yesterday was a witness to the many lives that Sr. Veronica touched and how she lived life to the fullest.

I met Sr. Veronica when she was 39 and I was 17.  I imagine we all have memories of someone we met, and thereafter our lives were never the same.  Sr. Veronica was truly one of those persons for me – as many of you know Sr. Veronica was the first Daughter of Wisdom I met.  For those of you who have heard this story before, forgive me … I first met Ronnie when I volunteered in a summer program run by Catholic Charities during the summer of 1973.  My intention was to sign up to work with the little ones – ages five to six, but that all changed when Sr. Veronica addressed this group of teenage volunteers.  Her message was that most will choose not to work with the adult mentally challenged (aged 18 and over), but that their needs were great, and she invited us to open our hearts to them.  In that moment, I decided that was where I was to be.  In the years that followed my first moment of encounter with Ronnie, I came to understand through her example and the example of many of you what it means to be “Sent in the name of Christ and to give preference to those whom the world rejects.”

Since I was 17 when I met Ronnie, she saw me through some of my “firsts,” for example learning to drive.  Now my story of learning to drive is a saga in and of itself, but I won’t go into that.  This one time shortly after I got my car, Ronnie and I were going to a reunion of Catholic Charities’ summer program.  I was driving, Ronnie was in the front seat and the woman I cared for in the program and her mother were in the back seat.  I had intended that we would basically take “back roads” (no highways to the event).  Well, it was pouring rain and it was getting late, so as we were coming up upon an entrance to the Long Island Expressway, Ronnie says, “Get on.”  To which I reply, “Get on?”  There was no saying no, so I did it – my first time on a highway.  I saw the movie “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” the other day.  The main character is a race car driver and at one point he is describing how to drive a race car in the rain.  The gist of what he said was – stay focused on the road and rain is just rain.  Thank you, Ronnie for teaching me through my driving example and many other life lessons that rain is just rain.

Many of you yesterday spoke of the joy you beheld in Ronnie.  This is true – it is also a part of what I found inspiring about her.

The longer I knew Ronnie, however, the more I became aware that like so many others intermixed with the joy was deep suffering.  To live in gratitude and compassion despite pain is what resilience is about – for Wisdom often emerges through the experience of suffering.

I read a quote from someone by the name of Fritz Williams.  Williams states, “Suffering and joy teach us, if we allow them, how to make the leap of empathy, which transports us into the soul and heart of another person. In those transparent moments we know other people’s joys and sorrows, and we care about their concerns as if they were our own.”

The “transparent moments” that Williams refers to can also be called transformative moments.  We all know the difficult times that Ronnie came through in her life – what could have been defining insurmountable circumstances.  However, these times redefined her.  Even in her darkest moments the joy that came through Ronnie was so very authentic.  In a recent article we reflected on as a leadership team, the author (Ted Dunn) refers to “suffering into compassion” – a “death into new life.”  Ronnie turned her suffering into compassion

Catherine McWilliams