Sister celebrates 100th birthday with joy

Sr. Mary Martin dePorres McKenna’s 100 years witness to a life of faith, joy and service.

The Sister of the Blessed Sacrament celebrated her centenary yesterday, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, at St. Elizabeth Convent in Bensalem, with a mass and a birthday party.

State Rep. Gene DiGirolamo attended the celebration and presented her with a citation from the State House of Representatives for her life's work.

Prior to entering the religious community, founded by St. Katharine Drexel in 1891 to serve the Native and African Americans, Sr. McKenna served New York’s poorest of the poor alongside Russian Baroness de Hueck and Dorothy Day.

Day founded the Catholic Worker Movement in 1933 and De Hueck was an aristocrat who escaped from Russia and worked with the poor in the slums of Toronto, where she founded Friendship House. She later established Friendship Houses in New York, Chicago and other cities.

According to a profile of Sr. McKenna in the Bucks County Courier Times, these women served as role models for Sr. McKenna, who, in the early 1930s, was a secretary at a Manhattan real estate firm. By 1937, the 33-year-old realized that she had found her life's work and entered the convent.

While she has trouble hearing and poor eyesight, Sr. McKenna’s mind is sharp. She can tell tales of growing up the sixth of nine children in a happy, faith-filled home, where the family prayed and ate every meal together. She retired from her work 20 years ago and spends much of her day praying in the convent chapel.

Sr. McKenna, the only one in her family still living, shared some words of wisdom with the Bucks County Courier Times. "We're all saints in the making," she said, and "There's no recipe for growing old. It's all up to God."

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