The Late Sister Catherine Vera

Sister Catherine Vera, of the Community of St. Mary, for nearly thirty years identified with the mission work of Trinity Church, New York, and recently called forth by God to the reward of her labors, may well be held in the remembrance of a future generation of Christian workers as an example of a very high and noble type of the Anglican Religious.

Of English parentage, of gentle birth, of a family with sound Church traditions, and with untarnished ideals of Christian standards of living, she came, still a young woman, to New York, to Trinity parish, seeking to know something of the work of a sisterhood which was in its formative years under the chaplaincy of the rector, the Rev. Morgan Dix.

Her character and the cast of her mind made her singularly fitted for the work to which she was at once assigned, after she had received her training as a member of the Community of St. Mary in the mother house at Peekskill. Dr. Dix was at that period planning a work amongst the down town poor of Trinity Church. He formed an association of the members of the parish church, distinct from Trinity corporation, to raise and administer funds for the support of this mission work. A small house was opened in State Street, facing the Battery, and Sister Catherine Vera, the day after her profession, was sent with some other sisters to take charge of this house and to organize the new mission. Seven years later the work was moved to 211 Fulton street, a more central situation in the district, and some seven years later still the house was remodelled and doubled in size.

The work was based on a system of guilds, formed to include in the various organizations every member of the mission, from the tiny tots of the Good Shepherd Guild to the aged women of St. Monica’s. Boys of various ages have their guilds, as well as the girls. These guilds have weekly meetings in the mission house, always closed by a religious service in St. Christopher’s chapel, at which one of the clergy of the parish officiates. The people of the mission were taught by Sister Catherine Vera to look upon the mission house as a second home; to many the hours spent there were the brightest they ever knew. She was herself ever ready to receive their confidences, and by her death many have lost their best friend. This system of guilds was reinforced by a thoroughly organized plan of visiting by districts. Through the knowledge of the people gained in this way, the alms of the Church could be intelligently dispensed. All the plans and methods of conducting the mission were worked out in consultation with Dr. Dix, who was a constant visitor at the house, and was most interested in all the details of the work. It seems a strange ordering of God’s Providence that these two, the great priest and the devoted sister, who were for so long intimately associated together, should have been taken from this work and from the people within a few months.

To describe adequately the activities of Sister Catherine Vera’s life would be to give a full account of the history of the mission work of old Trinity down to the present day, for through her thirty years of ministry, she had in the Providence of God this one work, and in the midst of it developed her fully rounded life. Much that was best and highest in that life was hidden and known but to the few who were in the most intimate association with her, but, her character had its effect on all who came in contact with her. Everyone felt a sense of her calm power, her balanced judgment, her devotion to duty, her inviolable integrity. Many were the tributes paid her at the last. The doctors and nurses who attended her in her painful illness were greatly struck by her patience and by her remarkable fortitude in the endurance of pain. The members of her household and those who came and went during her last days felt the sanctity of the influence that went forth from her sick-room. Most touching of, all was the scene on the morning when she lay in St. Christopher’s chapel, and the poor amongst whom she had ministered came in great numbers to assist at the Requiem, more than a hundred of them making their Communion. Many of the women are office cleaners and had risen at 4 or 5 o’clock that morning to get their work done early in order to be present.

In closing this brief sketch, a few words must be added as to her characteristics as a member of a Religious Order of this Church. As a matter of fact, her work can hardly be considered apart from her “state of life.” She was a consecrated woman, devoted to her Church and to her community, who brought her natural gifts and her qualities of character, and used them to the glory of God and the good of souls, in the work to which she was sent; just as she laid aside her responsibilities and accepted the service of others, when the time came that her strength failed her. Daily through a long life she accepted the Providence of God; daily she fulfilled her round of duties, some of which were simple household tasks, some of which touched interests that were far-reaching and vital to many. No one was more human in her affections and interests. The mission house was singularly bright and homelike, a most unexpected oasis in that district of New York office buildings. She made it an ideal Christian home, as well as a thoroughly organized centre of multifarious charitable and philanthropic activities.

From The Living Church, March 27, 1909, p. 712.

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