Sister Mary Rose McGeady: Champion and Savior
of Covenant House
CINCINNATI—Sister Mary Rose McGeady, D.C., did not want the job as president
of Covenant House, the well-known agency for runaway teens thats based in Manhattan.
When the position was offered to her in 1990, the agency was near ruin and an
overwhelming amount of work was needed to save it. Yet, through prayer and self-examination,
she eventually accepted the challenge of leading Covenant House. Today, its
thriving once again, largely due to the efforts of Sister Mary Rose, who will
retire from her position in June of this year.
The life and career of this dedicated nun are featured in the
February issue of St. Anthony Messenger, entitled Sister
Mary Rose McGeady: Rebuilding Covenant House. Author Claudia
McDonnell examines the journey of Sister Mary Rose, a lifelong
advocate for child welfare. After January 26, the article will
be posted at: AmericanCatholic.org.
When she took the job, Sister Mary Rose had her work
cut out for her. The founder of Covenant House, Father Bruce Ritter, resigned
after accusations of sexual and financial misconduct. Although he denied any
wrongdoing and no formal charges were filed, he left his post as leader of Covenant
House. Donations plunged while the agencys debt swelled to $38 million. Clearly,
the agency needed a miracle. That miracle took the shape of Sister Mary Rose,
who immediately set out to restore confidence in the agency and save it from
Sister Mary Rose had an impressive background in service
to fall back on. Born in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, in 1928, the family moved to
Washington D.C., when Mary Rose was in the first grade. As a high school student,
she volunteered on weekends at St. Anns Infant Asylum in D.C. She entered the
Daughters of Charity at the age of 18 and attended Emmanuel College in Boston,
earning a degree in sociology before receiving a masters in clinical psychology
from Fordham University.
Sister Mary Rose was named director of mental health
services for Brooklyn Catholic Charities in 1973. She spent years opening mental-health
clinics, day-treatment programs, workshops and alternative living programs.
Under her leadership, Catholic Charities mental- health budget rose from $300,000
to more than $6 million.
Covenant House would need such a leader to salvage its
reputation. With apprehension in her heart, Sister Mary Rose made a pact with
God. I said, If you want me to do this, I will do it. Lets make a covenant,
you and me. Together well work to save this place, she says.
Today, Covenant House is financially sound and even
more prosperous than before. When Sister Mary Rose arrived, the agency was in
12 cities; today that number has increased to 21, with 15 facilities in the
United States, two in Canada and one each in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and
Nicaragua. Under Sister Mary Roses leadership, job-training and life-planning
programs, as well as numerous community centers have been implemented, all designed
to aid in the survival of her lifelong priority: children.
Sister Mary Rose is philosophical about her calling. I have always
felt that was the blessing of my vocation: that I was sent to these kids, and
I loved it.
Permission is granted to reprint this release.