Sisters of Charity Federation Archives

Elaine McCarron, SCN Oral History


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Sister Elaine McCarron, SCN
September, 2015
(​This interviewer’s remarks/observations are in italics.
Let me share with you the story of Sister Elaine McCarron. As I sat with this quiet ,
unassuming woman and learned her story I could only marvel at” What God has
wrought “ in her life and her generous ministry for the Church.)

Elaine was baptized Helen Elaine and had the SCN name Sister Michael Maria until
January, 1968. Elaine ‘s father, James Joseph(Joe) came to Washington, D.C. from
Farmersville, Illinois with his parents at age two. He was the oldest of eight
children born to Elizabeth Jordan McCarron and John Francis McCarron. John
came to D.C. in order to take a job in the U.S. Congress as a congressman’s
secretary while also attending law school. Elaine’s father Joe followed the career
path of his father and graduated from Georgetown University and Columbus Law
School in Washington, D.C.
Elaine’s maternal family (McNally) had migrated from Ireland to Canada, then to
Chicago and finally to Washington, D.C. Jobs in the U.S. Government lured the
McNally family and many others to Washington, D.C. Elaine’s mother, Mary
McNally, was one of six children. The oldest, Viola, died at age six before the
family moved to Washington. Next came three boys, George, Roland , and William
, a soldier who served in combat in the Pacific during World War II. Elaine’s
mother was next and the youngest was Vincent. All worked for the U.S.
Elaine grew up in Washington with four siblings – Mary Dolores, Jimmy, Joan and
Maureen. Even the briefest of conversations with Elaine lets you know the joy and
closeness of her extended family. She remembers many happy family celebrations
with grandparents, aunts, uncles, numerous cousins and neighbors.
These are some of Elaine’s memories:


” In those days my father would take us every Sunday to Maryland University. The
ride was a treat and we had ice cream, too. Every Thursday during the summer
my father would take us to a beach on the Chesapeake Bay to swim and picnic.
My father was always able to wave in for free because he had won a court case
for the grateful beach owner. We lived very close to Catholic University. Every
year my parents would take us to services at the Shrine of the Immaculate
Conception (now a Basilica) during the January week of Church Unity. We went to
plays and to ball games, as well, at Catholic University.. My grandmother McNally
took us on summer boat rides to Mt. Vernon, George Washington’s home and
Marshall Hall, site of the home of Thomas Marshall, Revolutionary patriot.
Every Sunday the McCarron children visited the catacombs, the gardens with
beautiful flowers , Lourdes Shrine, the statues of the Franciscan monastery which
was close by. After our visit there we would stop by some friends of my mother
and grandmother for a visit. I am sure they had plenty to do but we were always
graciously received.
Some Sundays we would take the bus and visit historical sites in downtown
Washington. Sometimes adults went with us but often we children went alone.
Our sister, Mary Dolores, was designated the one in charge. We had to give an
account of our visit when we returned home.”
When Elaine was eight years old her father was killed in a tragic car/train
collision.. Later a safety crossing was installed at the site but this was a terrible
loss for a young mother with five children. Mary McCarron was fortunate to move
in with her parents and to get a position with the General Accounting Office
(GAO) through the kindness of a friend of Joe McCarron. In 1921 the GAO had
been established to investigate and oversee the activities of the Government. One
of its tasks was to take care of the President’s checks. Mary McCarron would tell
her children sometimes “The President’s check came through today.”
Mary always kept alive the memory of their father for her children. His law
degree and other plaques hung on the wall in the dining room. She would say to
them when something good happened in their lives, especially some personal
achievement,” Your father would be so proud of you.”


Elaine went to St. Anthony Elementary School for grades one through eight. She
was taught by the Benedictine Sisters and holds them in high esteem. The school
was just two blocks from her home and the McCarron children went home each
day for lunch. For high school Elaine attended Notre Dame Academy in downtown
Washington where eight McCarron girls – herself, her sisters, and four aunts –had
been students. Looking back Elaine realizes the faculty, lay and religious, were
excellent instructors .The curriculum included four years of Latin, three years of
French, theater and music. Science and mathematics, although not Elaine’s
favorite subjects, were also on the curriculum. The Notre Dame Sisters and the
Jesuits staffed the entire complex which encompassed St. Aloysius Church and
Grade School, Gonzaga High School, and Notre Dame Academy.
After high school Elaine attended for one year Dumbarton College staffed by the
Sisters of the Holy Cross . Then, in September of 1950, Elaine entered the
Novitiate of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.
(This thought came to me ,”How did this young woman come to know of the
SCNs ?” )
Elaine explains,” I learned of the SCN Community from a priest when I told him I
was thinking of entering the convent. He told me to visit the SCNs who staffed
Georgetown Hospital and Nursing School , saying ‘They have a simplicity about
them’.I did know that some of my classmates from Notre Dame Academy
attended the Georgetown School of Nursing. This was helpful .
I decided to enter the SCN Community after much discerning – go, do not go,
back and forth, over and over. I told my mother, ” Just tell me to stay home and
help you and I will.’ Her wise mother replied,’ You do what God wants you to do.’
Sister Moira Rose Marks, so kind and good, was my postulant director. There was
a challenge for her and us in that she was sent to Bardstown to teach at St.
Joseph’s plus her responsibility to guide us. She seemed to love her ministry with
postulants and was probably a great teacher, as well.”
For two years Sister Helen Frances Sheeran was the novice director for Elaine’s
class. Basically very kind, Sister could come across as rather strict and severe.
Above all, she wanted the novices to understand the rules and regulations of


religious life. After she left her ministry in the Novitiate she kept up a very
admirable work of continual correspondence with many in prison.
After making first vows in March, 1953 , most of Elaine’s Novitiate class stayed at
Nazareth for three months’ study, having such fine teachers as Sister Margaret
Gertrude Murphy in SCN history and Marietta Grimes in Philosophy. Her first
mission was a three year assignment to teach one of the first grades at St. Cecilia
School in Louisville. The next mission was at Cathedral Grade School in Richmond,
Virginia where she taught either first or second grade or a combination.
This mission lasted eleven years and would be a highlight in Elaine’s remembrance
of ministries. When asked “ Why so?” her answer was this.” Cathedral School
was very interesting because of its diversity. There were poor children who had
migrated from Appalachia, there were African American children, there were
upper middle class children who had been bussed in from the suburbs”
(What a challenge and a joy to show children of diverse backgrounds how to live
and learn together!)
She remembers ,”During this time, when Sister Mary Naomi Elder was principal
and both of us taught at Cathedral, we were located near Monsignor Richard
Burke, Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Richmond. He came to ask
certain educational questions of us and to listen to our advice on various school
matters. Both of us had the advantage of having been in the Louisville
Archdiocese and profiting by having a school supervisor and knowing many
excellent teachers .”
In 1966 Elaine was assigned as principal and teacher at St. Mary’s School also in
Richmond. Elaine was grateful that this mission was hers for at least a year. At
the close of this year she received a call from Sister Helen Frances, now the SCN
Regional Superior in the East, saying that Elaine was to go to the Richmond
Diocesan Office of Education the following year.
This mission of supervisor would be hers for the next eleven years. She had the
responsibility of visiting classrooms, giving workshops for teachers, speaking at
PTA meetings, etc. At the same time Elaine began study for a Masters of Science
degree in Education at Fordham University in New York City. She achieved this in
four summers.


Elaine would go on to St. Michael’s College in Toronto, Canada,under the Toronto
School of Theology, for a Master in Divinity which included three years of fulltime
study. Elaine’s direction in ministry would change significantly. She became a
Director of Religious Education in Virginia Beach, Virginia. After that, she made
the first of several trips she would make to Belize; she was the Minister of
Religious Education at St. Brigid’s in Richmond, Virginia for one year.
In 1990 she was invited to be the Representative for Catechesis and Multicultural
Concerns for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in
Washington, D.C. . The invitation came from Sister Lourdes Sheehan, RSM, who
was the Secretary of Education for the USCCB. She and Lourdes had been in
ministry together in the Diocese of Richmond. Elaine served in this position for
eight years
(​I wish there were some way to include all the positions, the publications, the
travel that Elaine had in her various Church/ parish ministries from 1990 onward.
It would take many more pages. I shall content myself with naming just a few. The
complete and impressive listing is available in the Archives,)
● At the request of the USCCB Office to Aid the Church in Eastern Europe
Elaine taught catechesis to seminarians, school teachers , catechists in Riga,
Latvia with Fordham University Professor Gloria Durka (1996)’
● Elaine was Adjunct Professor in Catechesis , Toronto School of Theology for
Summers - 1984,1986,1990,1994,1998.
● She attended a conference at the Vatican with 200 international attendees
for the inaugural presentation of the ​General Directory for Catechesis,​
● She was a speaker at National Catholic Education Association (NCEA),
Convention, at National Conference of Catechetical Leadership (NCCL)
Conference, at the Los Angeles Congress for Religious Education, at the
Diocesan Religious Education Conference in Jackson, Mississippi, at the
Diocesan Meeting of DREs in Charlotte, North Carolina as well as a number
of other meetings and conferences.


● She has written and published articles / chapters for books such as
Gathering God’s​ P
​ eople: Signs of a Successful Parish, Beginning the
Journey :From Infant​ ​Baptism to First Eucharist​, Winner of the Catholic
Press Association Award in Book Category 1994, ​Evangelization​ ​and
numerous others. She was the writer for ​Becoming Disciples, a​ K-8
curriculum for the Office of Religious Education for the Diocese of
Wilmington, Delaware.

In 1998 Elaine became a member of a parish ministry team of three religious
Sisters for the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware (inclusive of the Eastern Shore of
Maryland). The mission of the team was religious education and training for six
parishes. Elaine chose ministry at two parishes -Sacred Heart Parish in
Chestertown, Maryland founded in 1705 and Mother of Sorrows Parish, a farming
community, in Centreville, Maryland. In these two parishes she continued to
share her experience and expertise while working on the Religious Education
Curriculum (K-8), ​Becoming Disciples,​ for the Wilmington Diocese.
(As I finish Elaine’s short bio I am thinking of how proud and grateful her family,
her SCN Community and the broader Church can be of this talented, generous
Maria V. Brocato, SCN
September, 2015



Dublin Core


Elaine McCarron, SCN Oral History


McCarron, Elaine, SCN; Sisters of Charity of Nazareth


SCN Archival Center


SCN Archival Center




Permission for any type of publication of archival materials, including text, photographs, video, or audio must be secured from the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Archival Center before publication. Contact archives staff for appropriate forms and contact information.






Oral History



Oral History Item Type Metadata


Maria Vincent Brocato, SCN


Elaine McCarron, SCN


Nazareth, KY, USA


SCN Archival Center , “Elaine McCarron, SCN Oral History,” Sisters of Charity Federation Archives, accessed June 25, 2024,


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