Sister Mary Veronica of the Community of St. Mary
Born 20 July 1874 Ella Sarah McCullough in North Bennington, Vermont
Professed 25 April 1906 at Peekskill, New York
Died 23 December 1965 at Peekskill, New York
Sister Mary Veronica, C.S.M.
Sister Mary Veronica died December 23rd in the 92nd year of her age and the 60s of her Religious profession. She remember living in the old Peekskill Convent—now St. Michael’s House where the Altar Bread is made—and as junior Postulant lead the Community procession into the new Convent at its Dedication in 1903. Sister was our last living link with Dr. Dix, and came to the Community from Trinity Church in New York City as his beloved spiritual daughter. One of his letters to her, written a few days after her clothing as a Novice in 1904, describes his joy at giving her the habit with his own hands in his last official visit to the Convent.
She was Professed on St. Mark’s Day, 1906, and almost immediately began working on the mural and reredos of St. Scholastica’s Chapel on the second floor of the Convent. With the cooperation of Sister Mary Angela, who did the letter on the walls and around the windows, the project was completed in 1910. From that time Sister began to have orders from churches for painting altar reredos or even whole sanctuaries and choirs. In the Thirties she developed her own technique with a special wax crayon in portraiture and received many orders for portraits, which she continued to execute until failing sight and strength forced her to give up all painting in her 89th year.
We cannot attempt any kind of evaluation of Sister’s art. She certainly had great technical ability; but we think of her paintings chiefly as expressions of the beauty and order of her own strong spiritual life. Her talent was used only for the glory of God and the good of souls, and was developed under holy obedience. During her ten-year term as Mother Superior General she put aside all painting so that she might concentrate on her official responsibilities. The time came for these burdens to be taken by another, and Sister Mary Veronica returned to work quietly and diligently in the studio for thirty-five more years. When the Mother thought that standing at the easel was too much for Sister’s strength, Sister was happy to work in another studio organizing the files and orders for the illuminations and cards painted by another sister. Like all her work, this was accomplished with enthusiastic precision.
It is, however, Sister Mary Veronica in her personal relationships that we love to recall: her child-like wonder combined with an alert sense of humor and a careful following of current events on all levels—local, national and international; her patience and the rueful little smile called forth by the frustrations of increasing deafness and illness; but, above all, her loving and prayerful interest in everyone she met or heard of,—and she never stopped praying for anyone.
Many of us were struck by the Divine ordering of all things so that Sister Mary Veronica’s death so near Christmas made it necessary to have her funeral service in St. Scholastica’s Chapel—the Convent chapel which she had beautified so long ago and where she prayed daily for almost sixty years.
—St. Mary’s Messenger, March/April 1966.