BY TERRY DICKSON as published in Gulf Pine Catholic, September 6, 2019
Two beloved Presentation Sisters from Ireland who have touched the lives of countless people in South Mississippi, will be returning home in September.
Presentation Sister Consilio Buckley and Presentation Sister Mary Kealy will leave for Ireland on September 19, but not before they are honored by their respective parishes. St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Gulfport will bid farewell to Sister Mary Kealy after 55 years of service to the parish and community on Fri., Sept. 13, beginning with mass at 5:30 p.m. followed by a dinner and reception in Presentation Hall. St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Long Beach will hold a farewell mass and reception for Sister Consilio Buckley on Sat., Sept. 14. Mass will be at 4 p.m. with a reception immediately following mass.
Sister Consilio Buckley
Sister Consilio will be moving to the Presentation Mission House in Lucan, Co. Dublin. “I’m going to be part of the mission team there, welcoming people who come home from missions,” said Sister Consilio. “It’s a house where all Presentation Sisters go when they’re returning to Ireland, whether they’re coming from India, Pakistan, the Philippines -- wherever they’re coming from. They use it as a place to come together. I will be there as part of a permanent group of five sisters.”
Sister Consilio came to the United States 52 years ago. She has worked at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Long Beach for 25 years, serving with former pastor Father Louis Lohan and current pastor Father Cuddy O’Connell. Prior to that, she served as the pastoral associate at St. Joseph Parish in Gulfport for 12 years, where she worked alongside Father John Kelly, Father Tony Arguelles, Father Antone Lynch and Father George Murphy.
“It’s going to be difficult to leave because the people here at St. Thomas are all my family,” said Sister Consilio. “It’s going to be very hard for me because, when I go to Ireland, I won’t know anybody. I go to St. Thomas Church and look around and I know almost everybody. I might not know them all by name but I know them all by their faces. It’s kind of a living death. It’s leaving your family.”
Sister Consilio is not on any social media outlets. “The only way I’ll be able to connect with people is through email,” she said. “I think I’m too old for Facebook, so I’ll just stay with email.”
St. Thomas the Apostle parishioner Jason Green said Sister Consilio’s departure will leave a tremendous void in the parish. “Sister Consilio has been a bright light for St. Thomas parishioners for many years,” he said. “She has been a great source of encouragement to our homebound, sick, and those preparing to send their loved ones to God. She has been a mentor, leader, educator, and spiritual advisor; but to many of us, she has been a friend. Her guidance and love for the St. Thomas community will be remembered for generations to come. We will always love Sister Consilio and the Sisters of Presentation for their impact on our lives.”
St. Thomas the Apostle Parish will honor Sister Consilio on Saturday, September 14 with a 4 p.m. farewell mass and reception.
“From the bottom of my heart, I would love to thank the people who I have served for their love, their care, their support and their kindness to me,” she said. “They have always been a part of my life and will continue to be a part of my life in my memory and in my thoughts and prayers.”
Sister Consilio said it will take some time to settle into her new surroundings. “After 52 years out of the country, it’ll be a whole new world to me,” she said.
Sister Mary Kealy
Sister Mary said that when she and Sister Consilio learned that the Presentation House would be closing, they were given the option of moving to San Antonio; Southern California; Fargo, North Dakota; or Ireland. She, like Sister Consilio, chose Ireland, where she will be taking on a new ministry at Nano Nagle Place in Cork.
“Nano Nagle Place is where Nano Nagle started our congregation in 1775,” said Sister Mary. “I will be living in the old convent there and my ministry will mainly consist of welcome and hospitality. We have a heritage center there and it’s also where Nano Nagle is buried, so a lot of people come to visit her grave. We have a lot of ministries going on there.”
August 20 marked the 55th anniversary of Sister Mary’s arrival in Gulfport. Sister taught at the now defunct St. John Elementary School and, since 2000, has served as pastoral associate.
“It’s going to be tough to leave, tougher than I thought it would be,” she said. Yet, it’s kind of exciting because I’ve always wanted to spend a little time trying to imbibe the spirit that inspired Nano Nagle to start the work she started. I’ve always wanted to go back and trace her footsteps and walk and think and reflect on her ministry.”
Sister Mary said what she will miss the most is the people. “They’re like my family,” she said. “I know generations of people. I know children and grandchildren who have passed through the parish and the school. They’re wonderful people -- very kind, sincere and faithful people. That’s what I’ll miss.”
The feeling is mutual, said St. John the Evangelist parishioner Vickie Tiner. “I am honored to say Sister Mary is my friend who welcomed my husband, Stan, and I when I joined the parish 19 years ago after our move to Gulfport,” said Tiner. “Throughout her years at St. John she helped to improve the quality of life not only as a teacher but in the parish as well. Her compassion and love for everyone will be sorely missed, and she was a force for good in our parish.
“Our parish owes her a great debt of gratitude and I am grateful to know such a special woman. I will miss her beyond words, but I know God will use her for good in her new assignment.”