Sister Monica O'Keefe, MSC

In Memoriam

Sister Monica O’Keefe, MSC was born in New York City, New York on September 1, 1932. She died at Our Lady of Prompt Succor Nursing Home in Opelousas, Louisiana on December 25, 2014 at 6:00 PM.

Monica entered the Congregation of the Marianites of Holy Cross on February 2, 1952 and pronounced her perpetual vows on May 30, 1957.

Educated at Fordham University, Monica spent most of her life in the Northeast ministering in elementary and secondary education and later in health care. During her years in education, she taught at Saint Louis Academy, Staten Island; Saint Ambrose, Old Bridge, New Jersey; Saint Benedict, Hazlet, New Jersey; and Saint John Vianney High School, Holmdel, New Jersey.

In her last active ministry, Sister was a substance abuse counselor in Health Care for the Homeless Program at the Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, New Hampshire.. She was active in the addiction treatment community of Manchester, and in the New England area.

In March of 2014, Monica was awarded the St. Martin de Porres Award by the Diocese of Manchester in New Hampshire. The letter of recognition from the Bishop of Manchester, Most Reverend Peter Libasci, stated:”You have been a champion of Catholic Health Care, demonstrating compassion for and selfless dedication to the sick. You have reflected the love of God in caring for the sick and those in need.” By all who worked with her, Sr. Monica was known for her dedication, her compassion and deep concern for others.

In her ministry to persons suffering from homelessness or from substance abuse, Monica’s compassion enabled her to see the face of the sacred in her clients. Sr. Monica journeyed selflessly with each person in their hopelessness and suffering. She strove to lead them to discover their spiritual core, their self-esteem, their human dignity and peace.

Each day Sr. Monica’s smile was her trademark. It was a sign of welcome and acceptance to all who came into her presence. In her own struggles, Monica turned to prayer – prayers of gratitude, prayers of pleading, and prayers of simply being silent in God’s faithful presence to her.

When she came to Prompt Succor Nursing Home as a resident, she endeared herself to others by her participation in the house activities and the prayers of her sisters each evening in the chapel.

Sr. Bernadette Larson recalled some of the memories she shared with Monica. “When we were together at St. Louis Academy, my mom, Monica’s sister, Sheila, and the two of us would meet in the city, see a Broadway matinee, and go to St. Malachi’s for Mass and then out to eat. These times were always lots of fun.”

New York, Ireland, clowns, and red cardinals held special places in Monica’s story.

One of her favorite quotes was from Vivian Green: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.”

Sr. Monica was preceded in death by her father, Hugh O’Keefe of County Cork, Ireland and her mother, Mary McDonnell from County Mayo, Ireland; and by her sisters, Mary Josephine Savercool and Margaret Daly. She is survived by her sister, Julia “Sheila” Conifrey and her brother-in-law, Bill Conifrey of Naples, Florida. She is also survived by several nieces and nephews.

When the news of her death was posted on Facebook to alumni of St. John Vianney School, the responses all echoed the same message. They cited her kindness, her help in getting through school, her compassion. “She was a perfect lady.” One former student said, “Sister Monica was what Christianity is all about.”

Dying on Christmas day, Monica was welcomed to heaven with the eternal smile of her loving God. Because her immediate family members were out of the country when Monica died, the celebration of her life was not held until January 3. Nearly all of the traveling family arrived to participate in it.

A wake service was held on Saturday, January 3rd from 8:00 AM – 10:30 AM at Our Lady of Prompt Succor Nursing Home Chapel. It was followed by the Mass of the Resurrection at 10:30 AM with burial in St. Landry Cemetery in Opelousas.

It seems only fitting to end this memoriam with the Irish Blessing so appropriate for our departed friend:

“May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields.”

And, dear Monica, until we meet again, “May God hold you in the palm of His hand.”