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Mehegan, Mary Xavier, Mother


Founder, New Jersey Sisters of Charity; b. Skibereen, Ireland, Feb. 19, 1825; d. Convent Station, New Jersey, June 24, 1915. Mehegan's parents, Patrick and Johanna (Miles) Mehegan, named her Catherine Josephine. In 1844 she and her sister Margaret left for the U.S. without the knowledge of their mother. In 1847 Mehegan became one of the first postulants received by the New York Sisters of Charity after their separation from the community in Emmitsburg, Maryland. As Sister Mary Xavier, she was one of the three sisters who opened St. Vincent's Hospital in New York.

In 1858 James Roosevelt Bayley, first bishop of Newark, N.J., and a nephew of Mother Elizabeth Seton, requested Sister Mary Xavier and Sister Mary Catherine Nevin to supervise five novices who had been trained for him by the Cincinnati Sisters of Charity. On this basis, the sisters' New Jersey community was formally inaugurated on Sept. 29, 1859. The motherhouse was located first at old St. Mary's, Newark, and then, after July 2, 1860, at Madison, New Jersey, where St. Elizabeth's school for girls was opened also.

During the Civil War, Mother Xavier worked with the sisters in hospitals in Newark and Trenton. After the war, her order increased in numbers; new land was purchased, and additional buildings were constructed. The missions of the order flourished, and new ones were opened in Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut. In 1899 Mother Xavier founded, at Convent Station, the College of St. Elizabeth, the first college for women in New Jersey. In 1915, when she had served as superior for 57 years, her community numbered 1,200 sisters and maintained 94 missions, including schools, hospitals, orphanages, nurseries, and homes for the aged.

Bibliography: m. a. sharkey, The New Jersey Sisters of Charity, 3 v. (New York 1933). b. m. mceniry, Woman of Decision: The Life of Mother Mary Xavier Mehegan (New York 1953).

[b. m. mceniry]

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