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Sister Mary Josepha Timmins, RSM, 1925-2021


Sister Mary Josepha Timmins, a teacher, health care minister, and “foster mother,” died Jan. 23, 2021.  

Mary Josephine Timmins was born July 19, 1925, in Syracuse, to Edward and Esther (McFarland) Timmins. Mary Jo and her sister, Rita, were raised by their aunt Julia McFarland in Oneida, after the death of their mother. Their father was a career Navy man.

After attending St. Patrick Elementary School and Oneida High School, Mary Jo answered the call to religious life. Another aunt, Sister Mary Ruth McFarland, was a Sister of Mercy.

On Dec. 8, 1943, she joined her aunt’s community in Buffalo taking the name Sister Mary Josepha. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Social Studies from Canisius College, she went on to teach at All Saints, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Martin of Tours, St. Brigid, St. Stephen, St. John the Evangelist, St. Ambrose, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, all in Buffalo; St. Joseph, Batavia; St. Mary, Olean; St. Mary, Holley; and Immaculate Conception, Wellsville.

For seven summers, she participated in the summer camp program for children of migrant workers. In 1981, Sister M. Josepha was presented with the Teacher of the Year Award by Batavia’s St. Joseph School Home School Association.

After 45 years in the ministry of education, Sister M. Josepha joined Sister Mary Angela Morano and Sister Miriam John Nash to open McAuley House in South Buffalo to help teenage girls in need of emergency temporary shelter. They served as “foster mothers” to runaways, abused and abandoned girls. In a five-year period, they housed over 200 girls who were in desperate situations. By working with Erie County Child Welfare Services, many girls were able to get the help they needed. These sisters were nominated for “Citizen of the Year Award,” presented by National Association of Social Workers in 1987.

 In 1993, Sister M. Josepha moved to Our Lady of Mercy Convent in Orchard Park to be coordinator of the Health Care Unit and spent another 20 years companioning her senior sisters. She has always kept informed about what is happening in the Mercy Institute and in the world. Sister M. Josepha has faithfully lived a committed life to reach out to the poor, sick and uneducated.

A funeral Mass will be held Feb. 2 at St. Martin of Tours Church in South Buffalo. 


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