ALBANY — When someone tells you there are angels among us, don’t doubt them.
Two such beings have graced the city of Albany for decades, but unless you are a member of St. Teresa’s Catholic Church or have partaken of the nourishment and kindness provided by Neighbors in Need and St. Clare’s Soup Kitchen and Clothing Room, you probably weren’t aware.
Those angels — blood sisters Alphonsina and Maura Molloy who are also Franciscan Nuns, sisters in faith — were honored following a recent mass at St. Teresa’s, a mass celebrated by the Bishop of Savannah, Bishop Steven Parks. Parks delivered a message and offered words of praise for the Molloy sisters on their retirement.
All who know — and adore — the sisters accurately point out that these Irish-born lasses are not big on ceremony or attention. As Father Raymond Levreault (“Father Ray” to the church body, because what Southerners would be expected to pronounce the French-Canadian Levreault?) so succinctly pointed out in the wake of the Molloys’ departure, “They’ve spent their lives feeding and serving the poor. They have taken up the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and followed the command of Jesus to ‘Love thy neighbor.’ They have no concern for worldly things.”
But Sisters Alfie and Maura were visibly touched by the attention paid them on their final day at St. Teresa’s and in Albany.
“We ask that you pray for us as we begin the next leg of our journey,” Sister Maura said. “All we want to do now is lock everything up, get in the car and be gone.”
Said journey is expected to be “opening a soup kitchen” (presumably in Ireland) for Sister Alfie and a period of “just doing nothing” for Sister Maura.
Bishop Parks, who praised the sisters from the altar and brought gifts of “sweet honey” from Savannah “to match your sweetness,” said the Molloy sisters personified the “character of St. Francis.”
“These ladies have served with a grateful heart,” the Bishop said. “And we want to thank them for being an example to each one of us.”
Sister Maura offered a brief summary of the Molloys’ service in Albany:
“Back in the ’70s, Bishop Lessard invited the Franciscan Sisters to come to Albany and establish a community center at St. Clare’s. In 1979 Sister Alfie was one of the first to come, and now she is one of the last. She spent eight years at St. Clare’s; during that time the sisters began a variety of programs, two of which are still in operation: The Soup Kitchen and the Clothing Room. Sister Alfie left St. Clare’s in 1987 to go to Homerville, Ga., to open a home for unwed mothers. From there, she was transferred to New Jersey and then returned to Albany in 2013.
“For me, Georgia has been my home for 48 years; 25 of those have been at St. Clare’s (at the corner of Oak Ridge Drive and Martin Luther King Boulevard). We have so much to be thankful for. St. Clare’s is actively supported by churches and individuals of many faiths, either by material donations or contributing their time and talent.
“We want to say thank you to the Bishops, priests, deacons and Franciscan Sisters who served here in the past and those who serve at the present time. A special thank you to Father Ray for his support and kindness to us over the years. Thank you to the staff at St. Teresa’s Church, Neighbors in Need and St. Clare’s.”
Sister Maura also thanked volunteers, the Knights of Columbus Ladies Auxiliary and the schools in the community, both St. Teresa’s and public schools.
Father Ray said the sisters will be dearly missed in the community.
“It’s inspiring to see the commitment that the sisters had to the message of the gospel and to their vows,” he said. “Any salaries the sisters got went back into the community, not to them. Their story is a fantastic one, these blood sisters who have served so faithfully as Sisters in Christ.”
As St. Teresa’s members lined up to pay respect for the sisters, many shedding tears and some bringing gifts, the warmth that the parishioners had for the Molloys was apparent.
“God bless you,” one said as she hugged Sister Alfie. “You have meant so much to my family and to the church. May God be with you always.”
As Sister Alfie’s face filled with joy, there was no doubt of that happening.
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