Aston, PA—Sister Columbkill O’Connor, OSF, is about to celebrate her birthday—100 years old! This milestone officially makes her one of the oldest members of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. Born Bridie Mary O’Connor on June 4, 1914, in Gortglass, Scartaglin, Ireland, Sister Columbkill was one of ten children in her family. She recalls a wonderful childhood with very caring parents. Her father, who wanted the best for his children sent them to school in England where the young Bridie and her sisters were taught by the Sisters of Charity.
Sister Columbkill entered the congregation in 1935 at the age of 21. When asked about her call to religious life she replied, “I knew I felt called to become a sister, but didn’t feel I fit with the Charity sisters. Many of them were nurses and that wasn’t what I wanted to do. I saw an ad for the Franciscan sisters and set up a meeting. I was immediately inspired. The Franciscan sisters just fascinated me. I liked the way they lived and the way they treated people.” Sister Columbkill’s sister, now deceased, did join the Sisters of Charity.
Sister Columbkill fondly remembers the day she entered the congregation. She entered in Mallow, Ireland, and a few months later was sent to the states. Since World War II was in the midst travel by plane was limited. She and nine other sisters were sent over by boat—a more difficult trip that took more than ten days. It was another 22 years before she made it back home to visit her family in Ireland.
Now a professed member of the Sisters of St. Francis for 76 years, Sister Columbkill has spent many of those years in elementary and secondary education ministry in the Baltimore, Maryland area where she spent 52 years. She also ministered in Wilmington, Delaware; Washington D.C.; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She received a B.S. in Education from Mt. St. Mary’s University in 1958. She fondly remembers many of the students she has taught over the years. Sister Columbkill is happy to report that six of her former students went on to study for the priesthood and all six of them have celebrated their Golden Jubilee (50 year anniversary). Several girls also entered religious life—five into Franciscan congregations.
When asked how she felt about turning 100 and about her longevity, Sister Columbkill commented simply “God willing.” She feels she is overall doing well and is still mostly independent. She loves to participate in activities at Assisi House, the congregation’s retirement residence in Aston, and especially enjoys attending Bingo. She attends Mass and prayer daily in the chapel, during which the sisters remember all those who have asked for prayers.
Sister Columbkill has been contacted by and will be awarded a certificate of official recognition “in grateful acknowledgement of distinguished service and exemplary citizenship in the County of Delaware.”
When asked previously what being a Sister of St. Francis of Philadelphia has meant to her, Sister Columbkill responded “I am very proud and privileged to be a Franciscan Sister and to have lived the Franciscan lifestyle. I am grateful for the graces and the blessings I have received in my ministry and community life.”
Many members of Sister Columbkill’s family traveled from Ireland to celebrate birthday with her.
Sr. Columbkill received special recognition from COSA, Delaware County Services for the Aging, for reaching the 100 milestone birthday.