Obituary: Sister Catherine Mulkerrin, CSJ, former president of Boston CSJ’s

Sister Catherine E. (Marie Martine) Mulkerrin, CSJ, of Brighton, former President of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston, died May 17, at Bethany Health Care Center in Framingham. “When you think about the gift you want to be in another person’s life, a lot of time and talent is yours to spend. Either you reach out or others know you are a dependable, caring presence in their lives.” Sister Catherine wrote these words in 1982 for a presentation on WEEI radio station. They speak of who she was to those whose lives she touched.

Born Catherine Elizabeth Mulkerrin on Dec. 19, 1935, in Medford, she was daughter of the late Martin and Catherine (O’Connor) Mulkerrin. Sister Catherine is survived by her brother Joseph Mulkerrin and his wife Ann (Barrett) of Virginia Beach. She attended public school in Medford and Matignon High School, Cambridge, and Boston Teachers College for one year and on Sept. 8, 1954, entered St. Joseph Novitiate in Framingham. When she received the habit of the Sisters of St. Joseph on March 19, 1955, she received a new name -- Sister Marie Martine. From 1957 to 1969 she taught in Cambridge, West Roxbury, and Lynn and was the librarian at Regis College, Framingham Campus. In 1969 she was elected to the leadership team of the Sisters of St. Joseph and served as an area director until 1978 at which time she was elected president of the congregation. At that time, she was described as a “jovial lady” who was looking forward to her term as president of the Sisters of St. Joseph.

In her tenure as president, Sister Catherine challenged the Sisters of St. Joseph to move through the process for a corporate stance on nuclear arms and a strengthening of their focus on commitment to the poor. She led with a prophetic voice from 1978-1984. During that time, she was elected chair of the New England Region of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. As a woman leader in our Church, she was the concrete voice and presence for the scriptural quote: “Without a vision, the people perish.”

In 1984 Sister Catherine received a diagnosis which changed her life. She was told she had cancer. After much prayer, she resigned as president of the Sisters of St. Joseph, took some well-needed time at the Sisters of St. Joseph Retreat Center, Cohasset, and gradually regained her health.

In the years that followed, Sister Catherine ministered in the area of adult education at St. Bonaventure Parish, Plymouth, and studied at Fordham University, where she received a masters in religious studies. When she returned from Fordham she ministered at St. Mary Parish, Quincy. In 1989 she was asked to work for the Archdiocese of Boston as assistant director of the Boston Archdiocesan Office for Victims of Abuse, a position she held for two years before going to Scranton, Pa., to work for the diocesan director of parish structures in the Office of Parish Ministries. Sister Catherine returned to Brighton in 1998 and until the end of 2007 ministered as a spiritual director. Earlier this year, her health deteriorated and she was unable to continue this ministry. In mid-March she went to Bethany Health Care Center, Framingham, where she continued to share her gift of profound wisdom and refreshing wit.

Sister Catherine lived among the people of God as gift and leaves a lesson of grace for all of us. She was a gentle, caring woman with a wonderful sense of humor, which those who knew her saw manifested in many ways. Sister Catherine was a woman of keen insight who was always ready to listen and respond with compassion. Her death is a deep loss for both the Sisters of St. Joseph and the Church in Boston.

Sister Brenda Forry, CSJ, is a member of the Leadership of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston.