91-Year-Old Nun Continues to Run a New York Catholic School Throughout the Pandemic

Tags: Currents Archdiocese of New York, Catholic Education, Catholic Schools, Crux, Faith, Pandemic, School, schools

By Emily Drooby

For almost 10,000 mornings, Sister Mary Stephen Healey has greeted the students at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School in Elmsford, New York.

After serving as their principal for 55 years, nothing can stop her from being there for her students, not even a pandemic.

Throughout the 2020-2021 school year and amid the threat of COVID-19, the 91-year-old still walked these halls daily because it’s the place she knew she needed to be.

“Well I guess I have a lot of those moments where I really believe that I’m in the right place at the right time,” Sister Mary said.

It was a nerve-wracking sight for the students that love her.

“I mean I was kind of worried for her,” said long-time student Joshua Arnoby Moronta. “I didn’t want anything bad to happen.”

The nun’s dedication doesn’t come as a surprise to those who know her, like superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of New York, Michael Deegan.

He described her as a “…compassionate devoted woman, who frankly puts the needs of the children before the needs of anyone else, including herself.”

Compassion. It’s a word Sister Mary knows well. She spent 71 years with the congregation of the Religious of the Divine Compassion.

Currents News spoke with students and teachers and they all gave her glowing reviews.

But Sister Mary doesn’t realize how inspirational she is. Humble and self-effacing, she never talks about herself or her accomplishments. Instead, she praises her teachers and muses over how to help her students deal with the pandemic.

“So many people tell you, children are so resilient,” Sister Mary said. “Yes, they are resilient. But I can tell you, from the lowest grade up, these children are very much affected by what has happened.”

Her presence and strength through this storm have created stability for these kids. One student said they hope to keep her for a long time.

When asked how much longer she thinks she would stay at the school, Sister Mary left it all to God’s plan.

“Only God knows that,” she said. “I can’t predict that. I think I’ll know and I think He will help me.”