Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy

Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy

Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy

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Sr. Enda Egan, One Of Ten Who Make A Difference

 Sister Enda Egan: Chaplain Comforts Hospice, Hospital Patients

The St. Augustine Record

December 28th, 2017

(The St. Augustine Record, a daily newspaper in Florida, profiles 10 people annually who “make a difference” in St. Johns County. Sr. Enda Egan, was one of the 10 people honored in 2017)

Sister Enda Egan says she lives her life in the present rather than brooding over the future.

“I focus my day in staying in the present moment, being grateful to God and thanking Him often during the day,” said Egan, 77, a member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy. “Every step I take and every breath I breathe is from God.” As I visit and work with people I remind them of this reality. It helps to stay away from worrying about the future of which we have no control.

Her more than 56 years of religious service to Northeast Florida Catholics is living proof that she does that well. The first 32 years were all about teaching in Jacksonville in Catholic grade schools, first at San Jose Parish and then at Christ The King Parish. She moved to St. Augustine in 1993 and, for 18 years, was a pastoral associate at St. Anastasia Catholic Church south of St. Augustine.

Sr. Enda before her Leaving Certificate

And now, she’s put in nearly seven years as hospital chaplain at Flagler Hospital and at Community Hospice Bailey Family Center for Caring. Over the years, her path has crossed with people she knew at various other stops in her career. In addition to stamina, she had another trait that served her well: memory. It’s a trait that people interviewed for this article pointed out without prompting.

“The Lord has blessed me with a great memory,” she said in a recent interview. She remembers names and faces of students and parishioners whom she knew from all her assignments between 1961 and 2011. The ones from Jacksonville, particularly, are sometimes surprised when she attends a funeral of someone previously connected to her many years ago.

Her strong memory has helped her, she says, when she reviews lists of patients in Flagler and the Baily Center that request visitation by a Catholic chaplain. A name will appear, and she’ll remember a connection. Those past friendships with Enda help to put the patient and their families at ease. She prays with the patients, takes note of their needs, and reminds the caregivers to take care of themselves as well.

Sr. Enda as Eucharistic Minister

Rev. Seamus O’Flynn, her former pastor at St. Anastasia, convinced her to switch from teaching to pastoral associate in 1993 shortly after he took over at the church. In a 2001 Record article after a parish appreciation day for Enda, he said, “Sister Enda has a diversity of skills and a winning way with people that have been very valuable to St. Anastasia. She has a tremendous gift for knowing people’s names, is a wonderful teacher of children, and has a great feel for those who are shut in and cut off from the community.

Kaylee Olsen, Chaplain Co-Ordinator for Flagler Hospital, has known Enda for three years. “She is very reliable, goes above and beyond the call of duty and is an asset to our program. And, she remembers everyone,” Olsen said.

“Sister Enda is an amazing person,” said Katie Lay, a team member with Flagler Health Care Foundation. “She always remembers my name, always asks about my children, and takes the time with me as a person.”

Since 2006, Egan has known Darlene Schmitt, of Foot Comfort of St. Augustine, and she, too, is in awe of her memory. “She does not admit to, but I believe she possesses some form of eidetic memory. This recall lets her match people and their needs with solutions or call to action in something as simple as a get-well card or a long-care visit.

Sr. Enda Egan

Enda came to Northeast Florida in 1961 within weeks of professing final vows as a Sister of Mercy in Navan in County Meath, Ireland. With three other women from her order, they helped Monsignor Mortimer Danaher, pastor of San Jose Catholic Church, to open the parish’s new school that fall.

Msgr. Danaher expected the Sisters to get acquainted with the parish’s part of Jacksonville. “He stressed the importance of service and being available to the parishioners,” she said. “After school several days a week, we walked, door to door, and visited with everyone (not just Catholics) in the San Jose area.”

It also helped her acclimate herself to life in the United States. Before she left Navan, she was told, “I would be there (United States) the rest of my life.” Sr. Enda later joined Msgr. Danaher at his next assignment, Christ the King parish and school in 1979.

By 1991, Enda was commuting on weekends and helping Fr. O’Flynn on a volunteer basis. By 1993, she was commuting on weekdays after school, too, and decided it was time to leave teaching. As pastoral associate, she worked in all phases of church administration, including but not limited to, hospital and hospice visits, finance, funerals, weddings, religious education, and bricks and mortar.

With Fr O’Flynn and supportive parishioners, they built a 26,000 square foot church, one of the largest in the Diocese of St. Augustine.

While pastoral associate in 2010, Egan shared her desire to become a full-time chaplain with then pastor Rev. D. Terrence Morgan. “Father Seamus and Enda built this congregation,” he said. “When I got here, she had my marching orders for me, she had done the spadework.” She also gave him a valuable piece of advice, “Take your time with people.”

She followed her own advice in changing careers again. Fr. Morgan said she wanted “to move more into personal contact work with the sick.” He applauds her work, especially with Hospice. “She is good at taking the temperature in the room and that is especially helpful for the priest.”

The mission of the Sisters of Mercy was established in 1831 when Catherine McAuley, with two young friends, dedicated their lives to God and thus began the Congregation of Sister of Mercy in Ireland. The mission of this order is to serve the poor, sick and under educated. “This our chrism as Sisters of Mercy and I try to live out that charism each day of my life,” she said.

She adds, “Hopefully, my life brings the fire and warmth of God’s love to the people with whom I come into contact with every day.”

Sr. Enda at Flagler Hospital

Schmitt, attests to Enda’s impact because of the reaction from people who come in her store and see a photo she took of Enda and former student, television personality and breast cancer survivor Donna Deagan. They attended Sunrise Rotary Club in 2012 to hear Donna Deagan speak. In the last five years, Schmitt says “hundreds” have recognized Enda and conveyed their own “own positive stories.”

Darlene Schmitt’s nickname for Enda sums up her work: “rock star”. “She’s everywhere: St. Anastasia Church ministry, Hospice, hospital outreach dashing around giving care or co-ordinating people to fill the need, or jetting to and from the ‘the holy land’ (Ireland!). Yet while you are in her company, she gives you her full attention and gives the impression that she can sit beside you indefinitely until your needs are met.

“When she’s around, we find ourselves sitting up straighter, choosing better grammar, and being reminded that there’s always a way to find time to do the right thing,” Schmitt said.

 

By Margo Pope, Record Correspondent
Permission is given for the publication of The St. Augustine Record article on Sister Enda Egan,  December 28th, 2017

 

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