Obituary of Mary Helen McComas
Mary Helen McComas, RSCJ
May 21, 1933–December 31, 2021
Mary Helen McComas was born on May 21, 1933, in Baltimore, Maryland, daughter of Louis Gough McComas and Elizabeth Rainsford McComas, the only girl among three brothers. Her elementary schooling was at the Cathedral School in Baltimore, after which she went to Eden Hall, Convent of the Sacred Heart, in Torresdale, Philadelphia, graduating in 1951. She spent a year at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland before entering the Society of the Sacred Heart at Kenwood on March 6, 1953,. She pronounced her first vows on September 15, 1955, at Kenwood, and on February 4, 1961, made her final profession in Rome. In 1964, she completed studies for a BA in Education at Newton College of the Sacred Heart; subsequently she took courses in secondary school science at Villanova College.
From 1956 until her profession in Rome in 1960, Mary Helen taught at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Maryland, and at Newton Country Day School of the Sacred Heart in Newton, Massachusetts. When she returned to Newton after her profession she taught science there until 1967 At that point her ministry changed from teaching to business management and in 1967 she returned to Stone Ridge where she served as the assistant business manager of the school. In 1980-81, she was granted a sabbatical abroad. She was based in Newcastle, England where she took classes at St. Mary’s, Fenham, but the year also included travel in Europe and to the Holy Land. Upon returning home in 1981, she served for one year as the assistant provincial treasurer of the former Washington Province in Boston. From 1982 until 1988, she served again as business manager, first at Sacred Heart Schools, Sheridan Road in Chicago, and then at Carrolton School of the Sacred Heart in Miami.
In 1989, Mary Helen was called to the motherhouse to be the assistant to the treasurer of the Society. She made the most of residence in Rome, even though the languages—French in the community and Italian in the city—challenged her somewhat. She was quite matter-of-fact about her language skills. Once when filling out a questionnaire that asked whether she understood French when spoken, she replied, “It depends on who is speaking.” She was herself amused by a mistake she made: she was going to the bank, Banco di Santo Spirito. Seeing the sign Santo Spirio she went in to take care of her transactions, only to discover that she was in a funeral parlor with that name. She rode her bicycle all around the city on errands for the treasury and for sight-seeing, carrying a wrap around skirt to cover her shorts when necessary! Always a free spirit, she took advantages of what Rome had to offer, especially sports events, one year going with another member of the community to the Italian Open Tennis Match.
In 1995, after six years at the motherhouse, Mary Helen returned to the United States and began work in the development office at Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart in Houston. She remained at Duchesne from 1997 to 2004, adding the business office to her duties. While at Duchesne, she participated in the Houston Senior Olympics, competing in the 65-69 age group, earning four gold medals, five silver, and three bronze in events such as the 50-meter dash, 100 meter dash, 10k bicycling, the two mile walk, throwing distance with a football and softball, and basketball free throw. When questioned about her athletic ability, Mary Helen credited growing up between two brothers and her daily fourteen-mile round-trip bicycle ride to work.
While in Houston, she served a term as area director. Her sisters appreciated her openness, kindness, sense of humor; above all, they found her a good listener. In thanking her for her work at Duchesne Academy and in the area, her provincial wrote, “You have a wonderful capacity to go about your work and to live out your relationships with a kind of ease and generosity…You have a way of empowering other people…You have a capacity to foster mutuality and reciprocity among the members of the Area.”
Mary Helen left Duchesne in 2004 for Oakwood, the retirement community of the Religious of the Sacred Heart in Atherton, California, where she served as the community’s business manager until 2012.. In both Houston and at Oakwood she continued to enjoy athletic activity. At the age of seventy-nine, Sister McComas was asked to be the coordinator of the RSCJ community at Avila. She enjoyed many happy years there and was dearly loved. As her health deteriorated, in 2020, she moved to Teresian House to receive the care she needed. In spite of the increasing physical toll her illness took, she continued to be both active in the Teresian House community and avid about learning new things. She even engaged in an on line Hebrew language course. She never missed a Zoom meeting with the province. Her good nature and kindness were a blessing to others, even as her own health continued to deteriorate.
Ten days before she died, Mary Helen sent an email to her family that began with, “When I pass on to Heaven . . . “ with detailed instructions on the manner and place of her funeral. Although we were not able to honor her request, her email was a clear indication of her readiness to go. It was no surprise that she slipped away quietly on December 31, 2021, She was eighty-eight years old and had been a member of the Society of the Sacred Heart for sixty-eight years.
Mary Helen is survived by her brother Ed and his wife Renee and many beloved nieces and nephews as well as her sisters in the Society of the Sacred Heart.
Her Memorial Liturgy will be at St. Francis of Assisi Church at 88 Fourth Avenue in Albany at 10:30 AM on Friday, March 25. She will be buried in the Kenwood cemetery immediately following the Mass.To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Mary McComas, please visit Tribute Store
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