Mary McMahon, RSCJ

Mary McMahon, RSCJ

Birth: July 10, 1926
Profession: July 29, 1955
Death: January 15, 2014

Religious of the Sacred Heart Mary McMahon, an educator who brought grace and joy to everything she did, died Wednesday, January 15, at Oakwood, the Society of the Sacred Heart’s elder care center in Atherton, California. Her "final welcome" will be Friday, January 31 at 4:00 pm at Oakwood. The funeral Mass will be Saturday, February 1 at 10:00 am, followed by a sharing of memories.

Mary Margaret McMahon was born to Dr. Edward and Catherine Heafey McMahon on July 10, 1926, in Omaha, Nebraska, the second of four girls. She is survived by her sisters Catherine McMahon, also a member of the Society of the Sacred Heart, of Atherton, Jean Fitzpatrick and Colleen McMahon, both of Omaha. Quiet, pragmatic and very kind, she will be missed by her family, her sisters in the Society of the Sacred Heart, and the staff at Oakwood.

A year after her older sister, Catherine, entered the Society of the Sacred Heart at Kenwood, Albany, NY, Mary followed suit and entered as a postulant on September 8, 1947. She pronounced her first vows on March 8, 1950, and returned to Duchesne Academy in Omaha, where she taught a variety of classes in the elementary school for five years, while completing her bachelor's degree at Duchesne College.

After her final profession in Rome on July 29, 1955, Sister McMahon taught at Sacred Heart Schools in Chicago and Menlo Park, California. Then, from 1958 to 1967, she was Surveillante of Novices (much like a dean of students) at Kenwood—very happy years in her life, and years which made a great impact on the Society of the Sacred Heart because of the way she touched the lives of many young nuns. From 1968 to 1972, she served as superior at Woodlands Academy, Lake Forest, Illinois.

From 1972 to 1978, Sister McMahon served as a member of the Chicago Provincial Team, while also serving in other roles, including director of formation, and director of religion at Woodlands. She was first a teacher, then principal of Hardey Prep, an elementary boys’ school in Chicago, 1978 to 1991. She served as interim principal at St. Joseph Academy in Menlo Park for one year, the taught at the Family School in San Francisco, 1993-95.

From 1995 to 1998, Sister McMahon served as director of Oakwood, the retirement center for the Religious of the Sacred Heart in Atherton. She volunteered at Our Lady of Guadalupe School in Houston from 1998 to 2004. She then spent one year as hospitality director for the Center for Educational Design and Communications (CEDC), a Sacred Heart ministry in Washington, DC, before returning to Menlo Park. She volunteered as an ESL teacher and other ministries with the economically poor.

When her term on the board of directors at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, San Francisco came to an end, she received a letter from a fellow board member, Paul E. Freiman, stating: “It is difficult to imagine our board going about its duties without your smiling face at the table, your laser-like perceptions clarifying our confusions and your perpetual focus on our children whenever we drifted away from our purpose. I found myself wanting to emulate your passion for excellent programs and excellence in teaching and administration. You have served as a guide for me in that regard, and I will always thank you for that.”

One word could sum up Sister McMahon's life story, with its variety of ministries: happiness. She exuded joy wherever she went. Her heart was full of gratitude for the opportunities she had throughout her career.

Sister McMahon graduated from Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart, Omaha. Her bachelor’s degree in Economics was from Duchesne College, also in Omaha. Her Master’s degree came from the University of Nebraska. She also took courses at the University of Notre Dame, Boston College and the Center for Concern in Washington, DC.


Submitted by Martha Curry on

Joey Yao, a graduate of Hardey at Sheridan Road, who also now is on the AASH national board, sent the following reply to me after I sent him an email message to inform him of Mary's death.

Sister Curry,

I am really saddened by the news. Although she had been ill, it's such an emotional shock to me as she was really influential in my growth as a person. I will reach out to my fellow alums, all of whom who loved her as much as I did.

Thank you for thinking of me. I hope you are well.

My best to you,

Submitted by John J. Sygielski on

Sr. McMahon hired me fresh out of the seminary and told me to learn to teach computer literacy which I did for several years to Hardey and Sacred Heart students. She gave me an opportunity and believed in me. Always focused on student's success, I learned more about human potential from her than anyone up until that time. She will always hold a special place in my heart. Rest among giants, Sr. McMahon RSVP.