April 2012: SISTER MAUREEN O'CONNOR
She’s 100 percent Irish, a loyal fan of the St. Louis Cardinals and the Green Bay Packers, and her path to religious life was quietly led by a Higher Power with a gentle, guiding hand.
Born on Tuesday, December 12, 1944, in Springfield, IL, to Thomas and Helen (Sullivan) O’Connor, Maureen O’Connor’s earliest career aspiration was to be a math teacher. However, sometime during high school, she changed her mind.
While she was a student at Sacred Heart Academy, Springfield, she worked in a doctor’s office and suspects it was during this time that her interest in nursing began. “In 1960, when St. John’s Hospital, Springfield, and Sister Anna Marie Schwieder (Sr. Gerard) initiated a Candy Striper program (the unique job title represented the candy cane look of the red and white-striped dress worn by the young, female hospital volunteer), I signed up,” Sister Maureen said. “I was especially fond of the opportunities to be with the pediatric patients. In looking back at this time in my life, I suspect that Sister Anna Marie may have done some subtle recruiting for my vocation, but since I was enjoying my teenage years, including going on dates with boys, I didn’t take much notice.” However, she admits that the thought of religious life crossed her mind a few times.
The road to nursing and religious life
In 1962, upon receiving her high school diploma, she enrolled in St. John’s Hospital School of Nursing, Springfield. “The school’s excellent reputation and my familiarity with St. John’s was the driving force in my decision,” she explained. It was also during this time that she began to ponder something else. “The idea of being a Hospital Sister of St. Francis surfaced while I was at the School of Nursing. I visited with Sister Paulette Collings, who was my Operating Room instructor, and Father Terence Tracey, hospital chaplain, and talked with them.”
Sister Maureen entered the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis in 1965 and is the last person to graduate from St. John’s Hospital School of Nursing who entered the community and stayed.
Education and service
In addition to her nursing diploma, she holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Marillac College, a master’s degree in nursing from the University of Colorado, and an MBA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She also holds a certificate from the Institute of Law & Religious Life from Misericordia University, Dallas, PA.
Her nursing assignments were at sponsored hospitals in Streator, Decatur, and Green Bay. She also served at Hospital Sisters Health System as the Administrative Assistant/Finance. From 1988-2007, she served as the Provincial Secretary/Treasurer for the American Province of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis. Since 2007, she has served on the leadership team as the Provincial Vicaress.
“In my own experience, I found that God was persistent with me, and I tended to go the other direction. I now see that God was leading me throughout my life, and I’ve learned from the experience. We should always be open to God’s will in our life.”