By Linus Deasy, Mercy Associate
Born Caroline Burnett, youngest to a large family in Collinsville, Connecticut on April 30, 1878 she entered the Sisters of Mercy, Hartford in 1898 taking the name Sister Maria Francis.
There is a story in the archives that after Sister Maria Francis had been transferred from one convent to another a student asked one of the Sisters “Where is that good Sister?” The Sister replied “Aren’t all of the Sisters good?” The student said, “Yes, but she is like a mother.”
Sometime in 2005 I was visiting with Mother M. Clotilde Sullivan a former Reverend Mother of the Connecticut Sisters of Mercy and I asked her “Besides yourself who was your favorite Reverend Mother?” She replied without hesitation “Mother Maria Francis”. When asked why she chose her and not Mother Ethelreda whom she had succeeded, she tactfully replied “Mother Ethelreda was very businesslike but Mother Maria Francis was very motherly.”
I had forgotten about that conversation until in 2014 when Sister M. Frederick Tkacz was celebrating her eightieth jubilee at St Mary Home in West Hartford. I escorted her from the chapel to the auditorium. On our way I asked her who her favorite Reverend Mother was and she also replied without hesitation “Mother Maria Francis”. When asked why she was her favorite she replied as Mother Clotilde did: “Because she was very motherly.” Sister Frederick added “Even when she told you something you didn’t want to hear she did it in a nice way.”
As a young superior at St Augustine’s convent in Bridgeport Sister Maria Francis’ outgoing personality was like a magnet. Sisters who lived in nearby convents would gravitate to the convent where she was stationed to receive her warm hospitality and enjoy her contagious sense of humor.
In addition to teaching and being elected Reverend Mother several times for the Connecticut Sisters of Mercy, Mother Maria Francis was at one time superior of the orphanage that the Sisters ran in New Haven. It was said that she had an open door policy in her office and that she endeared herself to the orphans by her kindness and genuine concern. She especially showered extra attention and love on the most homely and unloved children who were in her care.
Mother Maria Francis passed away at St Mary Home in West Hartford, Connecticut on February 2, 1954.