Sister Catherine Margaret Carden, MM, Catechetical Trainer, Local ESL Program Founder and Missioner Dies at 93

Carden, CatherineMaryknoll, NY-Sister Catherine Margaret Carden, MM, a catechetical trainer, local ESL program founder, and missioner serving in Peru, Mexico, Colombia, Hawaii, and New York, died July 25, 2013, at Maryknoll Sisters Residential Care IV. She was 93 years old and had been a Maryknoll Sister for 73 years.

Born on March 27, 1920, in Carbondale, PA, to Marcus A. and Gertrude Corrigan Carden, Sister Catherine entered Maryknoll from St. John’s Parish, New York, NY, on December 8, 1939. A 1938 graduate of Cathedral High School, New York, NY, Sister Catherine also received a diploma in secretarial studies from Grace Institute, New York, NY, in 1939, prior to entering the congregation at their Motherhouse in Ossining, NY. She then went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in education from Maryknoll Teachers College in 1960, and an M.A. in Theology from Manhattan College, New York, NY, in 1970.

Sister Catherine’s first assignment in 1946 was to Hawaii. Thirteen more years would pass before the island chain would become a US state, and the needs of the fledgling Catholic populace there were great. So Sister Catherine, then called by her religious name, Sister Marcus Marie, along with Maryknoll Sister Patrice Cadden, MM, were asked to start the first Confraternity of Christian Doctrine program for the Diocese of Honolulu.

Sister Catherine worked diligently to develop the program until 1950, when she was sent to Stockton, CA, to train catechists and teach catechism in various communities throughout San Joaquin County. “Carrying brown bag lunches, portable chalkboards and other teaching aids, [Sister Catherine, along with other Maryknoll Sisters stationed in Stockton] took the Gospel message to children they gathered in churches, auditoriums, pump houses, living rooms, basements and storerooms,” wrote Sister Elizabeth Roach, MM, in a press release issued in 1989. “That’s where I found my love for Hispanic peoples,” Sister Catherine said, a passion that would soon lead her to Spanish speaking lands in Central and South America.

Her first stop was Lima, Peru, where Sister Catherine did pastoral work and trained catechists at Ciudad de Dios Parish from 1960-1964. She then went to Mexico, where she opened the first Catholic convent in Cuernavaca, and, along with other Maryknoll Sisters, met the material and spiritual needs of thousands of poor people from Lima who had flocked to Cuernavaca in hopes of finding a better life. Sister Catherine also the joined the staff of Centro Intercultural de Documentacion (CIDOC) in Cuernavaca, where she served as the language institute’s program and personnel director. Since its founding in 1960, CIDOC has become, according to its own website, “one of Mexico’s oldest and most respected language institutes.”

In 1966, Sister Catherine went to Colombia, where she served as Executive Secretary of the Catechetical Institute in Manizales. Sister Catherine was involved in administration, program planning, and personnel for the institute, which offered further training in theology and pastoral work for priests, sisters, and laity.

In 1971, while on leave in the United States, Sister Catherine responded to a plea from a public school official in West Haverstraw, NY, to develop an English as a Second Language program for his school district. Again, Sister Catherine’s love for Hispanic people, many of whom lived in West Haverstraw, spoke to her and led her not only to found the program but become the school’s liaison with families in the area. When “Miss Carden”, as she was known during her tenure in the district, retired in 1988, her supervisor, Dr. A. Glen Everhardt, Superintendent of Schools for West Haverstraw, wrote her a glowing recommendation. “In my professional career that spans more than 30 years, I have not worked with a better teacher than Catherine Carden. She is simply great with the children. She knows her subject. She has all of the essential pedagogical skills refined to the highest level. She makes allowances for individual differences. She is enthusiastic, and her pupils love her and do their very best for her. I wish that she could go on forever in North Rockland.”

Following her retirement from teaching in West Haverstraw, Sister Catherine continued to minister to the people of West Haverstraw, volunteering at People to People, a local organization which helped the community’s homeless, hungry and needy. She officially retired, living first in Nyack, then at the Maryknoll Sisters Center in Ossining, in 2004.

A Vesper service will be held for Sister Catherine on Tuesday, July 30, 2013, at 4 p.m., followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, July 31, 2013, both to be held in the Annunciation Chapel at the Maryknoll Sisters Center in Ossining. Burial will be in the Maryknoll Sisters cemetery at Maryknoll, NY. Dorsey Funeral Home is handling the arrangements.

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