In 1956 the first wave of nine Mercy Sisters came from Sligo, Ireland and settled in the Diocese of San Diego, California. In 1958 the second group came, including Sr. Celestine Callaghan.
On November 15th, 2018, Sr. Celestine passed as a result of cancer. Her death was a beautiful experience for all in attendance. As six of us surrounded Cel with our prayers, love, songs and finally with the singing of the Suscipe, a tear slipped out of her eye at the words, “My God I am yours for time and eternity,” and she drew her last breath. Peace was with Cel and all of us.
Naturally many stories of Cel were told during these days and at the time of her funeral Mass. She professed her Final Vows in 1948. In 1958 Sr. Celestine was missioned to the U.S. She served in the Diocese of San Diego for over 55 years. Sr. Celestine taught in Holy Spirit, St. Anthony’s, (San Bernardino), St. Columba and St. Michael’s Poway, where she also served as Principal for many years. Memories of her of over 60 years ago included seeing a very tall, beautiful, stately Sister. Because of her appearance many of the girls thought that she wore makeup and lipstick! She was a patient teacher and managed her classes expertly. All who passed through Sr. Celestine hands were well prepared in all subjects needed for the high school entrance exams. Most of all she was a spiritual person who loved poetry, reading a poem every day. All who encountered her were inspired by her. Every First Friday the combined 7th and 8th grade class of at least 70 were led through the Consecration of the Sacred Heart and no one stirred. We knew that it was a sacred moment with the prayers read so devoutly by Sister.
Cel kept herself active in mind and body up to the time of her death. Her treasured way of communicating with her family was through Skype on her beloved iPad which she did every Sunday morning after Mass along with many jigsaw puzzles.
Her funeral Mass was held in St. Michael’s Church in Poway. The pews were filled with Sisters, parents and many students from St. Michael’s School and parish. After a tribute given by the pastor Msgr. Dolan, Msgr. Joe Finnerty, stood up to offer his words. He offered sympathy to the family of Sr. Celestine in Ireland and then to the Sisters of Mercy here and especially to Sr. Finbarr. He said that Sr. Celestine and Sr. Finbarr worked together and walked together here for about 40 years. He continued, “They walked every day after school which contributed to their long life and good health. As a former Pastor of St. Michael’s Parish I would like to thank you Sisters of Mercy for your immense contribution to the Dioceses of San Diego and San Bernardino for over 60 years of teaching and bringing the Faith to not hundreds but thousands of children. I have never heard a Bishop or priest express thanks to you for your wonderful work of building up the Faith by your presence and witness at schools and parishes. You Sisters have formed and fashioned the youth of this Diocese during those days and now you are teaching the children of the children you taught years ago. We priests are remembered for building Churches and Schools of bricks and mortar, but you Sisters for building hearts of love and learning, you form consciences and build character.”
Susan DeGuide rsm