Remembering Sister Elizabeth O’Connor (1921 – 2023)

“How good is the good God.” – St. Julie Billiart 

Sister Elizabeth O’Connor was born in February of 1921, the sixth of eight children. She recalled that her father, who worked in Lawrence, Massachusetts, was paid once a month. Every month, each child would be asked to write down one thing – one would ask for candy, another for ice cream. When payday came, her father would go out and buy all his children’s requests and they would have a little party. 

Sister Elizabeth entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in 1938. “I felt God calling me,” she said; she also credited several of her teachers, Sister Catherine and Sister Catherine Francis, who were members of the congregation.  Soon after she entered, her mother died of heart failure. Sister Elizabeth struggled with this and considered leaving the convent to return home. However, realizing that her mother would have been proud of her for becoming a Sister, she decided to stay.  

Sister Elizabeth was a lifelong educator, serving as both a teacher and as a Superior and Principal. Her first mission was to St. Patrick’s in Lowell, Mass., where she taught for ten and a half years. She taught in Massachusetts at St. Patrick, Lowell, Our Lady of the Presentation, Brighton, St. James, Salem, St. Mary, Waltham, St. Charles, Woburn and St. Mary, Danvers. She also taught at St. Michael in Exeter, NH and St. Justin in Hartford, Conn. Of her first mission, she fondly recalls two twins – Anita and Estelle – who could not speak English. Sister Elizabeth would stay after school to help them. These students struggled with behavioral issues and would often scream and cry in class. When the Superior came in to tell Sister Elizabeth she had to let the girls go to be sent to a specialized school, Sister Elizabeth replied, “I can’t let them go. I am thinking of their souls.” 

Of all her ministries, teaching first grade has meant the most to her, “because of the innocence of the children.” 

After teaching, she worked for 22 years for St. Margaret’s Parish in Beverly Farms, Mass. Of this time, she says “I am grateful to God for the many graces given to me in dealing with the parishioners.” 

Sister Elizabeth O'Connor went home to her good God on October 6th, 2023, at the age of 102, and after 85 years as a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur. Her funeral was held on Friday, October 13 at Our Lady of Queen of Peace Chapel, Ipswich, Mass.

Enjoy this video reflection of Sister Elizabeth O'Connor, taken at the time of her 85th Jubilee:

Sister Elizabeth O'Connor pictured with Sister Peggy Cummins at Sister Elizabeth's 85th Jubilee celebration at Emmanuel College in Boston, Mass.
Sister Elizabeth walking into the 2023 Jubilee Mass at Emmanuel College, along with her fellow Jubilarians.