Sister Tarcisius Flaherty, CCVI

Like other sixteen-year old Irish girls Margaret Flaherty heard the call to join the Incarnate Word Sisters in San Antonio. Her family farm in the 1930s had only basic utilities and no telephone, so the perceived wilds of San Antonio was not much of a stretch. Once here she finished high school and entered the congregation with the hard to pronounce name of Tarcisus.

The name was no challenge to her as she walked to her first teaching assignment at St Peter Prince of Apostles school and continued to teach while completing her degree part time and summers. Her entire life was devoted to teaching young children in many Texas locations, Louisiana and Illinois. Her ready wit and love of children served her well and the children also loved her. In time her friends called her Tar and the children who could not pronounce her religious name decided to call her Sister Tarzan. That mutual admiration followed her through a long life, and her former students, now successful businessmen and nuns themselves now, were frequent visitors.

Some of her happiest days were summers spent at St Peter-St Joseph Children’s home where, among other duties, she supervised the Swimming Pool in full habit and a fear of water herself.

But her childlike outlook on life, and humor, also brought out an almost impish side. As a young novice with an overly strict superior she and two of her fellow novices decided to sneak out at dusk one evening, put on sheets over their habits, and float through the Congregation cemetery until they knew they were seen, and then vanished. A flood of novenas followed the incident and the anonymous “ghosts” but an understanding Chaplain advised them to forget it. The extra prayers hurt no one.

Retiring from teaching children was not easy for her but she continued to serve those who were less fortunate around her. Well in to her 90s and in good health she feared that she might live forever. At one point her humor kicked in as she declared “There is nothing wrong with me. I guess I will have to die in a drive-by shooting!”

When she did pass on at age 94 one story about her lives on. As a young nun who never saw a telephone but assigned to cover it on weekends with trepidation, she knew very little about money, checkbooks, credit cards or anything that modern. Plastic gift cards were often given away, but one birthday gift of a card to a local supermarket tempted her. She decided to try it very early one morning even though she had enough cash to pay for her few personal items. Tentatively she handed her gift card to the cashier. Understandably he asked if she had “swiped” it? Horrified, she said “I did certainly not. I got it for my birthday!”

Embarrassed as never before, she paid cash and beat a hasty retreat.

This is our heritage. Making a Difference.

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