Sister Anthony Eileen Reidy
Sister Anthony Eileen Reidy
The oldest member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, one who has a longtime connection with the Diocese of Trenton, reached a milestone July 25.

Surrounded by a cake, balloons and, best of all, her fellow Sisters, Franciscan Sister Anthony Eileen Reidy joyfully celebrated her 102nd birthday.

“The memories of my days working in the hospital cafeterias come to mind,” said Sister Anthony Eileen, thinking back to the 35 total years she ministered in St. Francis Medical Center, Trenton. “Many of the young nursing students would confide in me because I was as young as they were, and they found a friend in me.” Many have remained friends during the past 70- plus years, she said.

Born Margaret Reidy in County Limerick, Ireland, Sister Anthony Eileen is the daughter of the late Michael and Hanora Reidy. She entered the Sisters of St. Francis in 1939 and professed her first vows in 1945.

Thinking back on why she wanted to be a sister, Sister Anthony Eileen recalled that the seed for her vocation was planted after hearing the stories shared by two sisters – Sister Pierre and Mother DePadua.

“Though I didn’t know the Sisters of St. Francis, I was very impressed by their kind, gentle approach and to hear them explain that they serve everybody – not just one group of people,” she said.

She decided to join the congregation and entered with other young women in Mallow, Ireland. According to information on the community’s Facebook posts, the community opened Immaculata Convent in 1932 in Mount Alvernia, Ireland, which was the congregation’s first foundation outside the United States and was established for the purpose of introducing applicants to life as a religious.

Though the convent was intended to only serve aspirants, it became a novitiate when trans-Atlantic travel was disrupted by World War II. In the early 1950s, St. Patrick’s Franciscan Hospital was added to the Mount Alvernia property and was where those in the novitiate helped to care for the sick and dying until the hospital and convent were eventually sold in 1972.

“We had lots of fun together even though we worked hard and learned much in how to become a Sister of St. Francis,” she recalled.

Upon her arrival to the United States and the Trenton area, Sister Anthony Eileen worked in the nurses dining room and central supply of St. Francis Medical Center for a year from 1946 to 1947. She then returned in 1976 and worked as a chapel assistant/chaplain and pastoral associate until 2011. During this time, in which she both worked and then volunteered, she visited the sick and dying patients, spent time in the surgical waiting room, journeying with families, patients and staff during difficult times. She also administered the Eucharist and prayed with the bedridden patients.

Along with St. Francis Hospital, Sister Anthony Eileen also ministered in St. Agnes Hospital, Philadelphia, and St. Mary’s Home, New Belford, Mass.

Sister Anthony Eileen moved to Assisi House, the residence of the elderly and infirm sisters located on the campus of the community’s motherhouse in Aston, Pa., in 2010. She has since served in the ministries of prayer and hospitality in addition to daily prayer and staying involved in her service projects. She also enjoys watching movies and listening to music.

When asked about what being a Sister of St. Francis has meant to her, Sister Anthony Eileen once wrote, “I feel it is a spiritual community – stable and caring. After leaving my family in Ireland and coming to America, I was able to shape my life and live out my hopes and dreams while strengthening my prayer life,” she said. “I thank God for his goodness to me in helping me find this wonderful congregation.”