Grail McMullen, RSCJ, RIP

Birth: Nov. 25, 1918Profession: Feb. 9, 1948Death: December 20, 2012

Religious of the Sacred Heart Grail McMullen died Thursday, December 20, 2012 at Teresian House in Albany. Described as having “a twinkle in her spirit,” Sister McMullen truly enjoyed her vocation. She will be remembered at a Memorial Mass in the Teresian House Chapel at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 27. Burial will be in the Kenwood cemetery in Albany.

Grail Immaculata McMullen was born in Jamaica, New York, on November 25, 1918, the daughter of Anna Dunne and John R. McMullen, Esq. Her brothers, Anthony J., S.J., Declan X., Brendan Jerome, O.P. and Aiden, S.J. pre-deceased her. She is survived by her sister, Faine McMullen, also a Religious of the Sacred Heart, and by her religious community around the world. In recent years Grail and Faine have spent much of their lives together. Particularly at Teresian House everyone remarked on their close relationship. Grail’s warm smile will be missed by the staff and residents there. One of her sisters who has known her for more than forty years comments, “one cannot think of Grail without thinking of her spontaneous smile!”

Grail McMullen entered the Society of the Sacred Heart in 1939 at Kenwood in Albany, New York. She made first vows in 1942 at Kenwood and final vows in 1948 at Via Nomentana in Rome.

For thirty-seven years, 1942 to 1969, Sister McMullen taught at Sacred Heart schools throughout the United States, including Newton Country Day School, Newton, Mass., Stone Ridge, Bethesda, Md.; Country Day School, Overbrook, Pa.; Carrollton, Miami, Fl., and Eden Hall, Philadelphia. One of her Newton students said of her, “She was warm and precise; her warm smile and her warm eyes have been characteristic of her all her life.”  She spent two years in Bogota, Colombia, where she taught English, while mastering her own Spanish.

From 1969-72 Sister McMullen served as the public relations director and assistant development director for Stuart Country Day School, Princeton, N.J. and Newton Country Day School, although, as she once wrote, she did “a little of everything, even teaching.” Those were years of change in religious life. One of her sisters who lived in community with her said Grail had offered to be one of the “guinea pigs” to experiment with contemporary dress. “I mention it,” she said, “because there was a courage and far-sightedness in Grail, despite her rather tense and perfectionist temperament.”  In 1972, she moved to Roxbury as public relations director and a teacher in an adult learning center. She taught Spanish and math at the Casa del Sol, Boston, for five years, then served as provincial secretary for the former Washington, DC province.

During the 1980s, she also served in various capacities in Houston, Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana.  In Houston she was secretary at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish—“a good role for her since she was person of detail and very warm in greeting people.”  Her last active ministry was teaching English as a Second Language to Adults in New Orleans. One Religious of the Sacred Heart wrote, “I first met Faine and Grail in New Orleans. They were such an inspiration to me and widened my understanding of justice issues in the south. They gave their all in love.”

She retired to a ministry of prayer at Kenwood in 1993 and moved to Teresian House in 2006.

“Grail gave the effect of being child-like, with her ever-ready smile, gracious and solicitous tone of voice and a twinkle in her eyes,” wrote a long-time friend Philip Giffee. “I am sure (at the time of her death) she grabbed her Beloved and screeched for joy!”