Birth: July 9, 1928
Profession: July 30, 1951
Death: September 16, 2019
Religious of the Sacred Heart, Hilda Carey died September 16, 2019, in Albany, New York.
Hilda Carey was born on July 9, 1928, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She was the daughter of Graham Carey and Elisabeth Foster Millet Carey, of Sunrise Farm in Benson, Vermont. Her father was an architect, a philosopher, a dairy farmer, a kind of renaissance man who greatly influenced his youngest child. Her mother belonged to one of the oldest New England families.
Hilda was a student in the first class to graduate from Newton College of the Sacred Heart in Newton, Massachusetts, where she received a B.A. in English in 1950. Hilda entered the Society of the Sacred Heart on September 8, 1952, at Kenwood in Albany, New York, and made First Vows in 1955. Over the next few years, Sister Carey taught English and served as mistress of studies at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Kenwood in Albany, New York, and the Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York, 91st Street. In 1960, she taught religion and math at the International School in Tokyo, Japan. The following year, she taught English at the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. In 1969, Sister Carey helped to establish Glen Oak School, in Gates Mills, Ohio where she taught for one year. For the next four years, she taught English and was mistress of studies at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Noroton, Connecticut. She undertook graduate studies at Manhattanville College, in Purchase, New York, earning an M.A. in English in 1960. After probation in Rome, she made her final vows on July 21, 1960, in Rome.
Sister Carey taught high school English for eighteen years in various Sacred Heart schools in New York, Connecticut, and Michigan. She had a particular love for Korea and Japan where she also spent many years teaching. Beginning in 1972, she was Professor of English at the Sacred Heart College for Women, Chun Cheon and Pucheon, Korea. During these years, she also taught freshman and sophomore English at the University of Maryland, University College, Youngsan Campus, Seoul, Korea. In 1981, Sister Carey returned to New York and worked at Green Hope Services for Women located in East Harlem, where she helped formerly incarcerated women prepare for the GED. In addition to this work, she also taught high school English and served as academic coordinator and guidance counselor at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, 91st Street, in New York City. Over the next four years, Sister Carey taught high school English and theology at Stuart Country Day School in Princeton, New Jersey, and later at Newton Country Day School in Newton, Massachusetts.
In 1986, she began teaching freshman English at Boston College, and continued in the same position until well into her eighties. Sister Carey had a particular love for the poetry of Emily Dickinson. In her teaching, she used novels from all over the world as a way of getting her students to explore the challenges of the human condition. For her, there was never any separation between literature and the deepest and most urgent concerns of our lives; and her students depended on her for guidance that went far beyond their studies. To everyone, she brought the same qualities of loving openness and total honesty.
Many years after her school days a former student wrote in an autobiographical paragraph, “I learned from Mother Carey how important it was to know how to give someone your undivided attention. She taught me by giving me hers when I came in to grouse about whatever was bothering me. She closed every book on her desk, called down to tell reception to hold her calls, turned away from her desk and focused only on my problem.” That kind of undivided attention was her gift to anyone she met in her long life, wherever she was.
An enthusiastic, life-long learner, Sister Carey spent her summers earning graduate credits in Language and Linguistics, American History, English, and Theology. She also embarked on language studies, learning basic Korean with the Peace Corps and at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea. Her publications include: The Lure of Circumference: the meaning of the term in the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Sacred Heart College, Korea, 1977; The Restless Desert of The Great Gatsby, Sacred Heart College, Korea, 1978; and, Mythopoesis in the writings of Emily Dickinson, Sacred Heart College, Korea, 1979.
When Sister Carey applied to the Princeton University Center for Continuing Education, the writer of her letter of recommendation described her as a remarkably gifted educator, one who had “a knack for turning young people on to things intellectual, especially in the literary field.” Sister Carey could share her knowledge in a variety of contexts, at the college and university levels in Korea and Japan and with ex-offenders in East Harlem. When asked, she said that her interests had pretty much remained the same throughout her life, love of literature, education and people.
In 2015, when she was no longer able to teach, Sister Carey moved to the Abba Community then, the following year, to Teresian House, both in Albany, New York. It was in those years that the fruit of her contemplative life became most apparent in the occasional profound observations she shared with those who visited her and in the open arms and welcoming smile she offered to everyone who approached her.
10 days after a wonderful visit by her brother John and his family from Ireland, Hilda died peacefully on the morning of September 16, 2019.
Sister Carey is survived by her stepmother Nancy Carey; by her brother and sister, John Carey and Felicity Sassella; and by her nieces and nephews, Maria Cunningham, Stephen Cunningham, Susan Elisheva Cunningham, Barbara Cunningham, Anne Mathieu, David Fedor-Cunningham, Michael Cunningham, Rachel Sassella, Lavinia Carey and Francis Carey. She will be sadly missed, and gratefully remembered.
A memorial Mass for Sister Carey will be celebrated at 1 p.m. on Monday, September 30, 2019, in the Infant of Prague Chapel at Teresian House. All are welcome.
Memorial contributions can be made to the Society of the Sacred Heart, 4120 Forest Park Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri 63108.