Sister Virgena, born Therese Marie, came to know the Sisters of Mercy through her brother, Lawrence, an ordained priest assigned to St. Patrick Parish in Janesville, Wisconsin. Her maternal grandfather, Tom Morrissey, had been cared for by the Sisters of Mercy at Mercy Hospital in Mason City, Iowa. It was in Mason City where Therese made her First Communion when she was 6 years old.
She saw these events as part of her call to journey in Mercy. She entered the novitiate on February 2, 1954, in Des Plaines, Illinois; was received into the Community as a novice on August 16, 1954, and given her religious name of Sister Virgena; and on August16, 1959, she professed final vows.
Sister Virgena’s life of Mercy ministry began as an elementary school teacher for 12 years. She then became involved in religious education, which she taught for eight years before becoming the director of religious education at St. Luke Parish in Brookfield, Wisconsin, serving there for 21 years.
In 2001, the community requested that professed sisters volunteer to live in the Institute Novitiate in Laredo, Texas. Sister Virgena was accepted and served at Divine Mercy Parish, developing the religious education program, among other ministries.
In 2009, Sister Virgena returned to Illinois as a minister of prayer and presence with the sisters. She said her motto, “Through Him, With Him, In Him,” was her mainstay during her life. She is remembered as a woman who always had a smile and a kind word for everyone she encountered, who went about her ministry in a whole-hearted, generous and quiet way.