At our Mass of the Immaculate Conception, Sister Judith O’Brien renewed her vows as a Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. A twelve-year veteran of Cathedral High School, Sister Judy began […]

At our Mass of the Immaculate Conception, Sister Judith O’Brien renewed her vows as a Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. A twelve-year veteran of Cathedral High School, Sister Judy began her ministry of service over 40 years ago and has since been fulfilling a lifelong commitment to care for others, that had been instilled in her at a very early age. Sr. Judy’s parents fostered a sense of faith and community responsibility through their careers. Her mother was a registered nurse, and her father was a chemical engineer who held very strong beliefs to social justice initiatives tied to the Catholic Workers Movement.  
Of her childhood she remarked, “It was steeped in Catholicism! My parents, really generations of my family, were very parish-oriented people. They taught me that others come first, and they played a remarkable role in shaping who I am.” Her strong bonds of faith, and firsthand witnessing of the way the sisters lived throughout her years in Catholic education led her to her vocation with the sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She attended Regis College for her undergraduate degree and Marywood College for her Masters and pursued her post-graduate certificate in Spirituality and Justice.  
Joining her order, post Vatican II meant that she was only required to wear a modified Habit, the traditional uniform of a Catholic sister, for approximately 5 years. Serving in New York, in the 80’s and 90’s Sister Judy encountered pandemic life once before through her ministry work that helped establish shelters for individuals living and struggling with HIV and AIDS. She supported not only those who were sick and dying but educated the community. She also later ministered to teen women through their prenatal care and tended to their infants. As time went on New York saw a decrease in orphanages and the novel idea of utilizing Sisters as foster mothers arose.  
Sister Judy’s call led her on an atypical pathway to motherhood. Child services in New York placed two small girls in her care. The girls had experienced an extenuating family crisis and instantly bonded with Sister Judy, their emergency foster provider. Moving back to MA, to be close with her family for support, Sister Judy embarked on a three-year process to navigate the adoption of her daughters as a member of a religious order. Although the precedent had been set by Brothers and Priests, she was the first, and possibly the only, Sister in the US to successfully complete an adoption and become a mother while fulfilling her holy vows.  
When sister Judy isn’t challenging the depths of her faith and deep commitment to God in unique and spirited ways, she also finds the beauty of the Lord’s creation through her passion for global travel. She has been to Peru, Chili, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Ireland. She hopes to one day travel to Africa if she is called to serve the missions there as well. She feels very blessed to have the opportunity to share love with so many of the people she feels called to serve. “God works in provincial and mysterious ways” she says. And above all else, said, “I want the students of Cathedral to know I love them, that they are worthy of love, not just from others but from God and I truly hope they feel that every day.” 
CLICK HERE to view more photos from Cathedral High School and the Mass of the Immaculate Conception Celebration.

Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Wow! What an amazing testimony. Thank you for sharing. And thank you for serving the community at Cathedral High School, Sister Judy!


  2. I was honored to serve as an elementary school teacher under Sr. Judy in Gloucester, MA. What a beautiful person, an exemplar of Catholic life and teachings. I miss her terribly, but I will always be grateful for her tutelage, her devotion to excellence in education, her friendship and her exceptional and beautiful humanity. You Rock, Sister Judy!


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