Vocation Story

Sr. Anthony Veilleux, O.Carm.

I was born in Manchester, New Hampshire, the second oldest of ten children and raised in a typical Catholic family. My father was a grocer and my mother, in addition to being a seamstress, stayed at home to provide the meals, do the laundry, keep the house clean and make sure that we would all know how to raise a family like she did! Both of my parents set a good example for us to follow.

When I was 5 years old we moved to Franklin, New Hampshire where my father became the manager of a newly opened grocery store. Many of my mother’s family lived there and so I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with them, especially my grandparents. Between my parents and the extended family, I was influenced by their great faith. I attended St. Mary’s School and near the end of the 1st grade, the students were shown the movie, The Song of Bernadette. This movie had such an impact on me that I would say it was the time of my spiritual awakening. Over the next few days, I placed a small plastic statue of the Blessed Mother in the crevice of a large rock in our back yard and throughout that summer would bring tiny flowers to place before her. I considered it my own little shrine.

At the age of thirteen we moved back to Manchester. During my high school years I worked in a small for-profit nursing home and developed a great love for the elderly. In 1972, while attending nursing school in Worcester, Massachusetts, my parents and I were invited to the First Mass of a newly ordained priest. We were asked to provide transportation for a Carmelite Sister for the Aged and Infirm from St. Teresa’s Manor just a block away from our home. As it turned out, this Sister happened to be the same one I had seen the previous year driving a John Deere lawn mower on the nursing home property one sunny afternoon. The sight of a Sister in the traditional habit with her veil flying behind her as she sped along the lawn is not something one easily forgets! Sr. Mary Brigid provided my parents and I with great conversation on our trip. When we returned home at the end of the day, she asked me to come to the Manor and complete an application for a job as a nurse’s aide for the summer. How could I pass up an offer like that - I could roll out of bed in the morning walk only a block and I’d be at work! She guaranteed to pay me $2.50/hr. but after my first day of work, I was informed that I’d be making only $1.50/hr. After explaining that I needed the money to pay for my tuition at St. Vincent’s Hospital School of Nursing, Sr. Brigid assured me she would let me work as many hours as I needed that summer.

It was during those many hours at work that I witnessed firsthand the love the Sisters had for the residents and the joy that filled that home! I had the opportunity to attend Mass there and to listen to the Sisters pray at certain times of the day. I soon realized that God was calling me to religious life and in particular, to this Congregation. Over the next few years I was invited to attend the big summer event at the Motherhouse, Dollar Days. I even had the privilege of meeting Mother Angeline on one of these trips and of course, I was introduced to the Vocation Director, Mother Mary Gabriel. In 1975 during my senior year in nursing, I wrote to request permission to enter the Congregation and received a letter of acceptance within a few weeks. Although my parents had an inkling that I would enter religious life, it was difficult breaking the news to them and my siblings, some of whom were still very young and really didn’t understand.

I entered in September and received the Habit after six months on February 11th, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. I was given the name Sister M. Anthony de Lourdes. This brings me back to the summer following my 1st grade and the shrine I had kept for the Blessed Mother. Little did I know that Our Lady of Lourdes would bless me with her patronage all these years later! I made my First Profession in 1978 and since then I have had the privilege of serving the elderly in many of our homes in New York, Massachusetts, Iowa and Illinois in various capacities. God’s joyful surprises stir me on and keep my days filled with his special love for me. It is my joy to give that love to others, in particular to the aged and infirm. Wouldn’t you want to know that special love of God through religious life? Our Mission of caring for the elderly in today’s world is much needed and is very rewarding. Come, join us and see!

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Sr. Anthony Veilleux, O.Carm.