Sister Catherine Charles Hendren, 82, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur of Stevenson, Md., died Sept. 22. She had spent the last 43 years in the Diocese of Wilmington and marked 65 years of religious life in August.
Sister Catherine taught elementary school for 22 years before coming to Delaware to teach theology to juniors and seniors at Saint Mark’s High School in Milltown in 1977. For six of those years, she also served at a summer camp for children suffering from spina bifida and cerebral palsy. After leaving Saint Mark’s, she worked at Cathedral Cemetery in Wilmington in data entry for nine years.
In 2001, Sister Catherine became the director of religious education at a new parish, St. Margaret of Scotland, which was then located in a warehouse in Newark. She began with 100 students in the program, but that grew at one point to 700. She was named a pastoral associate at the parish in 2013.
That was the same year she was diagnosed with cancer, but it did not slow her down. According to a profile on her congregation’s website, a typical week included visiting parishioners in hospitals and those who were homebound, bringing Communion with her. She also made sure that people returning home had the meals they needed while they recuperated.
She coordinated the confirmation program, which had 79 candidates last year. She and her team met weekly with students, and they provided a retreat for them. In addition, she was the parish liaison for the “Friends of St. Margaret,” meeting with parishioners over the age of 50.
Sister Catherine began a Lazarus ministry to help plan luncheons and any arrangements necessary for funerals. She helped with activities surrounding the liturgical seasons of Advent, Lent and Easter.
“The years here at St. Margaret of Scotland have given me much joy,” she said in an article published last winter by her congregation. “The people have become my family and are always willing to share. Many of the parishioners are my past students from Saint Mark’s High School. ‘God is good’ has been my motto in all that I do.”
She said at the time that she had no plans to retire, but she remained at St. Margaret for just a few more months.
In his homily at her funeral Mass on Sept. 29, Msgr. John Hopkins, pastor of St. Margaret, said Sister Catherine lived out the mission of her religious community, which was founded to teach children and to spread the goodness of God.
“I think it’s safe to say she fulfilled the mission to which she committed herself so many years ago, although oftentimes in her own unique or special way. We can safely say this a mission accomplished,” he said.
No matter where she ministered, he said, “she was always trying to give witness to the love of God, that God has bestowed on us, as his children.”
Msgr. Hopkins said he celebrated Sister Catherine’s 40th, 50th and 60th anniversaries as a woman religious. Her 65th was on Aug. 15.
“If she could have celebrated that milestone, she would have been in this place, this altar, with her walker, or really, her portable throne,” Msgr. Hopkins said, drawing laughs from the congregation.
Burial was private. Contributions in Sister Catherine Charles’ name can be made to the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur Development Office, P.O. Box 157, Stevenson, MD 21153.