Birth: April 21, 1924
Profession: July 29, 1954
Death: July 31, 2015
Religious of the Sacred Heart Catherine McMahon died July 31, 2015, at Oakwood, the Society of the Sacred Heart’s elder care center in Atherton, California. Remembered as an extraordinarily gifted teacher, her life will be celebrated with a funeral Mass in the Oakwood chapel, 140 Valparaiso Avenue, Atherton on Saturday, August 8 at 10:00 a.m. Burial will be in the Society of the Sacred Heart cemetery at Oakwood.
Catherine Rose McMahon was born in Omaha, Nebraska to Dr. Emmett E. and Catherine Heafey McMahon, April 21, 1924, the eldest of four girls. Pre-deceased by her parents, her sisters Mary Margaret McMahon, RSCJ and Jean Fitzpatrick, she is survived by her sister Colleen McMahon of Prairie Village, Kansas and nieces Jean Fitzpatrick of Kansas City, Missouri, Margi Gallo of Austin Texas, Rosemary Fitzpatrick of Stuart, Florida and nephew John Fitzpatrick of Kansas City, Missouri and numerous cousins.
After eight years of parochial school, Catherine attended Duchesne Academy, a school run by the Society of the Sacred Heart, followed by Duchesne College on the same campus. Her vocation to enter the Society of the Sacred Heart took root in her in her junior year. She entered the Society at Kenwood, in Albany, New York, before graduating, on September 8, 1946. She pronounced first vows on March 19, 1949.
Returning to Duchesne in Omaha, Sister McMahon taught at Duchesne Academy while completing her Bachelor of Arts at Duchesne College with majors in Sociology and English, 1949-52. After brief assignments at the Society-run San Francisco College for Women (formerly Lone Mountain, now a part of the University of San Francisco) and the Convent of the Sacred Heart in San Francisco, she made her final profession in Rome on July 29, 1954.
Sister McMahon then taught English at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Menlo Park, California while earning her Master’s Degree in English from Stanford University. From 1956 to 1965, she chaired the English Department at Duchesne College and did the same at Lone Mountain from 1965 to 1970.
In 1970, Sister McMahon was sent to Korea, where she served as professor and chairperson of the English Department at Sacred Heart College for Women in Chun Cheon for two years. Over the next four years, she (taught) alternated between teaching at Lone Mountain and the University of San Diego, then San Diego College for Women. From 1978 to 1981, she served as director of the Oxford program in England for the University of San Diego.
From 1981 to 1994, Sister McMahon did a variety of ministries: as bibliographer, working on Sacred Heart materials at the De Rance Foundation in Milwaukee, then as administrative assistant at the Ronald McDonald House in Washington, DC, assistant at the Society’s Center for Educational Design and Communication in DC, and eventually as executive secretary to the president of the Catholic Telecommunications Network of America from 1990 to 1994.
In 1994, Sister McMahon responded to a call from Warsaw, Poland, for an English teacher of young Religious of the Sacred Heart, where she served for three years. She returned to the United States in 1997, to St. Louis, where she worked in the Archives of the United States Province of the Society for four years. This experience eventually led her to the New York Public Library. Her final active ministry was in the Society’s infirmary at Kenwood in Albany, until Kenwood closed in 2003.
Sister McMahon moved to Oakwood, the retirement center for the Religious of the Sacred Heart in Atherton, California, in 2008.
Sister McMahon was a lifelong learner, taking courses in everything from introduction to computers, to Spanish, ancient Greek, and genetics. Her interests included English literature, etymology, linguistics, and bibliographic studies. She had a particular call to help families struggling with the terminal illness of a child.