Cecilia Moloughney was 15 when she decided to leave her family behind in Ireland and travel to America to pursue her dream: becoming a nun.
She joined the Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk, based in Blue Point, and over the decades taught elementary school, helped guide aspiring nuns, and served as a sharp-witted member of the order.
She lived until 102.
Moloughney died April 5, a little more than two months shy of her 103rd birthday. She was buried on the grounds of the order’s former motherhouse in Blue Point, next to her older sister, Patricia Moloughney, who also made the journey to America to become a nun.
Cecilia Moloughney “was a wonderful woman,” said Sister Joann Callahan, head of the order. “She did so much for the community, for the church.”
Up until a couple of years ago, she would play religious hymns on the piano before Mass — from memory, Callahan said.
Moloughney became interested in religious life when nuns from the Blue Point order visited County Tipperary, looking for recruits. She and her older sister asked their parents’ permission, knowing they might rarely — or never — see them again.
“Daddy said to Mom, Mom told me afterwards, he said, ‘If we don’t let them go and God wants them, he would take them. And if he takes them, we don’t even have them. But if we let them go, they’ll be doing good work and they will be close to God and they will be close to us,’ ” Moloughney told Newsday in 2017, her Irish accent still strong.
Of her decision to come to the United States in 1931, she said: “We decided that’s a good thing to do … to help build the future of America, in a very small way.”
She did not see her parents for a decade, but after that was able to visit every few years. As time went on and the church loosened its rules, she returned every year.
One of the highlights of her nearly nine decades as a nun was teaching seventh grade from 1937 to 1949 in a school run by the Ursulines in Ozone Park, Queens. One year, she had a class of 62 students.
“It was the happiest years of my life because they were wonderful," she told Newsday. “They were good thinkers.”
Moloughney went on to spend a decade as director of novices at the headquarters in Blue Point, and returned to teaching throughout the 1960s — at St. William the Abbot in Seaford and Holy Family in Huntington.
Later, she worked in religious education for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, and then headed the religious education program in Greenwich, Connecticut, from 1978 to 2005, Callahan said. She retired at 89, though she stayed in Connecticut three more years.
She spent her final years at the Blue Point motherhouse, and then at the Maria Regina nursing home run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood.
During her years of ministry, Moloughney earned a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s College in Brooklyn, the forerunner of the university in Queens. She also earned a master’s degree in education and in administration and religious studies from Fordham University.
A funeral Mass was celebrated April 11 in Our Lady of the Snow Roman Catholic Church in Blue Point, down the road from the former motherhouse.