MOTHER ANGELINE. Learn more from the Mother Angeline Society, which promotes her sainthood cause: (CNS photo/Kathleen Ogle, The Catholic Spirit)
MOTHER ANGELINE. Learn more from the Mother Angeline Society, which promotes her sainthood cause: (CNS photo/Kathleen Ogle, The Catholic Spirit)
As their foundress comes closer to sainthood, the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm in the Albany Diocese are celebrating.

On June 28, Pope Benedict XVI declared Mother Mary Angeline Teresa McCrory "venerable," the first major step leading to canonization.

Mother Angeline died in the Albany Diocese in 1984 at the age of 91 after founding a religious community known for its respect for life and care for the elderly.

The Vatican's announcement is "a validation of Mother and everything she tried to be and everything she taught us," said Mother M. Mark Louis Randall, O.Carm., superior general of the Carmelites, whose motherhouse is in Germantown. "Every house is thrilled."

More than 180 Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm staff 18 nursing facilities and two assisted living facilities as far west as Iowa and as far south as Florida. The Carmelites also sponsor a mission in Ireland, a gerontology education institute and a non-profit healthcare system. In 2009, the order founded Mother Angeline Ministries of Care to train parish pastoral care volunteers.

Health connection
That the news about Mother Angeline's sainthood cause coincided with the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on the health reform law was no accident, Mother Mark noted.

"I couldn't think of a better time for her to become venerable than right now," she said, citing current threats to eldercare like budget cuts, a Massachusetts assisted suicide ballot initiative and the aging of baby boomers.

"Money affects the way we care, because you can only find so many ways to run a nursing facility," the superior explained. "This is a good time to turn to Mother for assistance."

A few thousand laypeople staff the Carmelites' facilities, which promote dignified care for the elderly - and also stressed homelike environments and individualized care before those became an industry standard, Mother Mark said.

Mother Angeline's legacy is "really a deep love and reverence for the elderly, a belief in the sanctity of life," she observed.

Sister's journey
Mother Angeline was born in Ireland in 1893. She was sent to the United States after entering the Little Sisters of the Poor in 1912. While stationed in the Bronx as a superior of a home, she discovered that the needs of senior citizens in America were not being met.

Along with six other sisters, Mother Angeline withdrew from the Little Sisters of the Poor and received permission from Rome to begin a new community in 1929. It would care for the poor, the rich and everyone in between.

Mother Angeline served six consecutive terms as mother general in Germantown. Mother Mark was a novice during the foundress' tenure there.

"You just looked up to her," she recalled. "She was so gentle and wise, and she just set the bar for you - in a nice way."

At the time, it didn't occur to Mother Mark that her superior might end up on the road to sainthood.

"Looking back - yeah, I should have thought it," she said. "You knew she was a holy person and that she inspired you to be a holy person."

Now, "having an outsider's view has helped us focus on the treasure that we had."

The cause for Mother Angeline's beatification and canonization was introduced in the Albany Diocese in 1989 and closed in 2007 after officials investigated her life and sent information to the Vatican. In 2009, the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J., launched the investigation of a miracle attributed to her and reported to the Vatican four months later.

Blessed Diocese
The announcement of Mother Angeline's advancement toward sainthood comes on the heels of similar progress with Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, Blessed Marianne Cope, OSF, and Rev. Nelson Baker - all of whom had ties to upstate New York. Blessed Kateri will become "St. Kateri" in October; hundreds of faithful from the Albany Diocese plan to attend her canonization ceremony in Rome.

"I think the Lord is blessing us here," Mother Mark said. "The fact that we've gotten this far [with Mother Angeline's sainthood cause] is wonderful."

U.S. televangelist Archbishop Fulton Sheen and six others from around the world were also declared venerable by the Vatican June 28 for their "heroic virtues."

There is no public ceremony associated with becoming venerable, but that won't stop the Carmelite sisters from celebrating Mother Angeline's milestone.

"We're good celebrators," Sister Mark said, "so we're hoping to put something on."