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Sister Mary Bertha Hennessy, one of first Oblate Sisters in U.S., dies at 91

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Dialog reporter

CHILDS, Md. — Sister Mary Bertha Hennessy, the last of the five Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales who founded the order’s ministry in the United States, died Jan. 28 in Childs. Born in England of Irish descent, the 91-year-old had been a member of the Oblates since 1948.

After professing her vows in Troyes, France, Sister Mary Bertha arrived in Childs in 1951 to help start an American foundation. She was a longtime teacher, including at St. Paul’s in Delaware City, Mount Aviat Academy in Childs, St. Anthony of Padua in Wilmington, and St. Bernadette in Drexel Hill, Pa.

She told The Dialog two years ago that she was training to be a missionary in Africa until the American Oblate provincial told her superior they needed Oblate Sisters in the United States.

“And here I am,” she said.

Initially, Sister Mary Bertha worked in the kitchen of the seminary run by the Oblate men’s congregation. Following her long career in the classroom, she assisted at Mount Aviat, correcting papers, putting up bulletin boards, and taking care of deficiencies and demerits. She said she liked being around the students, who helped her stay young.

“With the cane, you’ve got to be careful. They come and grab you, so you’ve got to be careful. They might knock you over,” she said.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. on the grounds of the Oblate Sisters, 399 Childs Road, Childs. Visitation will be from 3-6:45 p.m. Thursday and 9:20-11 a.m. Friday. Burial will be Friday in the Oblate Sisters’ Cemetery. Donations in Sister Mary Bertha’s name can be made to the Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales, 399 Childs Road, Childs, MD 21916.