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Sister Mary Damiana (Jeanette Helene Bordes)

List of Deceased Sisters

Date of Death 02/12/2019

Sr. Mary Damiana BORDES smsm

July 18th, 1926 – December 2nd, 2019

 SMSM Sisters

 Jeanette Helene BORDES was born on July 8th, 1926, in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, USA, one of ten children of Ernest and Fernande Bordes. Her family members have told us what a generous, kind, hard-working and devout person she was even in her early years, and that the desire to become a Sister came to her when she was still very young. But she waited until the age of 21, in 1947, to enter the Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary in Bedford, Massachusetts.  There she made her first vows on February 2nd, 1950. 

 After her profession, she was assigned to do mainly domestic work – laundry, sewing and cooking – for the Sisters at our central house in Framingham (1950), then at the novitiate of the Marist Fathers and Brothers in Staten Island, New York (1951-’56).

 In 1957 Sr. Mary Damiana returned to Framingham and followed a correspondence course in order to complete her secondary school education, while also doing photography and assisting the staff with the publication of the Marist Mission magazine. From 1962 to 1965 she returned to kitchen duties, first at Bedford, and then at “62 Newton Street” in Waltham. 

 Finally, in September 1965, she began studies at the Perry Normal School in Boston, in order to take up the ministry that would become her delight for the rest of her days: teaching small children. She graduated with her Teacher’s Diploma in June,1968 and began teaching at St Dominic’s Institute in Brookline, Boston in September of that year.  She continued her studies and graduated from Boston College with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education in June 1974.

 Six months later, in December 1974, Sr. Mary Damiana was sent to what was then a new mission for us in Memphis, Tennessee.  For the next 3 years she taught there at a Day Care Center. Then she returned to Massachusetts.

 Sr Mary Damiana never had the opportunity of going to an overseas mission, but here in the USA, she sought out those children most in need and did not spare herself in going out to serve them.  In 1980 she began teaching at St William’s School in Dorchester.  The commute from Waltham to Dorchester, across the busy city, was very long, so she stayed with the Sisters of St Joseph during the week and came home to Waltham on weekends.  After six years she was sent to a school closer to home and began teaching at St Patrick’s in Watertown.  However, 6 years later she was not able to resist a call to go back to Dorchester, and she taught there a further 7 years, commuting daily, until she retired from full time teaching in 1998. 

 At the end of her service, the Boston City Council gave Sr M Damiana a special citation for her 13 years of service in Dorchester, saying, among other things, that “this ‘kind and gentle woman’ should be recognized along with the lessons and love she has taught to her students at St William’s and beyond.” They also mentioned that “her unconditional dedication to her students has been shown through her strenuous morning commute from Waltham”!

 Some years ago when we were each asked by the congregation to write something about our present ministries, Sr Damiana wrote this: “After retiring as a full time teacher in 1998, I have been involved in volunteer ministries...For six years I have been a “Reading Partner” at Jonathan Bright Public School in Waltham.  This was a novel experience for me since I had not taught in schools other than Catholic schools.  I was welcomed by the Principal and the staff and the children.  I felt accepted as a Religious. Speaking of God, religion and praying are not permitted in Public Schools.  My part in building the Kingdom of God was that of a silent presence as I shared God’s love through my actions.”

 All through her life people recognized how much she loved children, and how much they loved her.  She also spent a great deal of time and energy serving her Sisters in community, wherever she was assigned.  She was especially devoted to the Sisters who were ill or dying. 

 Those who were closest to her knew that she found change very difficult, including changes of community, changes in religious life and in our own congregation.  When she differed with someone, she would state her opinion frankly, but she didn’t reject the other person.  She eventually adapted to changes in a spirit of faith and humility. 

 In 2004 she was one of a group of Sisters who moved to St Mary’s Apartments in Waltham and she was the last to leave there in 2011.  While there, she frequently walked over to visit Sisters in Maristhill Nursing Home and in the “62” community in Waltham, where she could be counted on to organize displays of photos for every jubilee and funeral of the Sisters.  She moved back to “62” in January 2011, where she felt most at home.  In 2015, she fell and fractured a hip and was admitted to the Elizabeth Seton Residence for rehabilitation.  Afterwards the was admitted to the Marillac Residence until her health declined and she needed nursing home care again at Elizabeth Seton.  It was there that she died on the evening of December 2nd, 2019.

 Those of us who were blessed to know Sr Mary Damiana, who were aware of her struggles and touched by her kindness, know that she lived to the end these words of our SMSM Constitutions:

 268.... Contemplating Mary,
we try to let ourselves be led by God, as she was, through the events of life.
Day by day we prepare to meet the Lord
when He comes again to take us to Himself. “Yes, come, Lord Jesus.”
(Rev. 22:20)

 Gratefully in Mary,


Sister Mary Jane Kenney, smsm                                             Sister Virginia Fornasa, smsm

Regional Leader                                                                     Communications Secretary