Sister Agnes Mary on August 15, 1951, the day she entered the novitiate
Interviewed by Sharon Cecil, June 21, 2016
John C. and Anna E. Deley were born in Slovakia in Eastern Europe where John was in the European Army. They married and their first daughter was born on January twentieth. Her father wanted to name her Agnes because she was born on Saint Agnes’s feast day. Since she was the first child her grandparents said she should be called Mary. When she was confirmed, at her father’s request her Confirmation name was Agnes. Thus she was called Mary Agnes. My parents settled in Braddock, Pennsylvania where my father found work at a steel mill. During the Depression, my mother started doing housework for others, in order to help her own family.
My parents were overjoyed when I, Agnes, was born on Christmas Day, 1924. Since I was born on Christmas Day, I should have been the one named Mary. My other siblings were Anna Margaret, John and Joseph. My parents were very caring and protective of their children.
Sister Agnes Mary as a baby
The Deley children were educated at Saint Michael’s School in Braddock. They had to walk about two blocks and across the railroad tracks to school even during cold and snowy weather. Every Tuesday my friends and I would go to Saint Joseph Church in Braddock and pray a novena to the Little Flower of Jesus, Saint Teresa. I prayed and felt God was calling me to be a Carmelite Sister. My friends encouraged me to seek a more active community at first, and change to a more contemplative later if I wanted. My sister Mary had entered the Vincentian Sisters of Charity on September, 2, 1934, and professed vows on August 16, 1936.
The Sisters at school were very helpful and all the children were especially fond of Sister Rupert Virtes, a second-grade teacher. I would often help Sister Theophila Hornik, my fifth-grade teacher, with various tasks after school. She asked me if I had considered becoming a Sister. Sister Euphemia Cvergros, my eighth-grade teacher, and Sister Joseph Jezovsky , the Principal, influenced and encouraged me to enter religious life.
My family moved to Swissvale, Pennsylvania to Saint Barnabas Parish on June eleventh, his feast day. My brothers and sisters went to Saint Barnabas School and I went to Swissvale High School.
Sister Agnes Mary with her parents and her sister, Sister Mary Victorine, who also entered the community.
Before I was eighteen I worked in the Admissions Office in Braddock Hospital for about six months. After graduation from high school I obtained a job in the office at Westinghouse as a payroll clerk.
On Sunday mornings my sister, Anna Margaret and I would go by streetcar to Saint Mary’s Church in downtown Pittsburgh. We would go with other young ladies and men to various missions, mostly farming areas, where we taught CCD classes. We would meet with Sisters to help up prepare for our classes. One Sister asked me, “Are you going to become a sister?” I responded, “The Holy Spirit has not touched me yet.” When I was leaving the Sister touched me and said, “The Holy Spirit has touched you.” Later, when I was talking with a priest he asked me if I was going to be a sister.
God was working in a mysterious way in calling me to religious life. Everything in my early life influenced me. But it was the effect of my mother’s prayers that actually led my sister and me to enter religious life.
So, on September 8, 1950, I answered God’s Call and entered the Vincentian Sisters. I was received on August 15, 1952, and made profession of perpetual vows on August 15, 1956. My religious name was Sister Mary Anita, and I went back to my Baptismal name, Agnes Mary, when it was allowed.
Sister Agnes Mary and Sister Mary Victorine with their mother and siblings.
In the Novitiate I was reunited with my eighth-grade teacher, Sister Euphemia, who was my Novice Mistress. The thirty-day retreat I made while in the Novitiate was a special time for me. During my Novitiate years I helped to make the Sisters’ habits. I really enjoyed the sewing and my time in the Novitiate.
Novices had to take an examination upon completing the Novitiate. The Bishop’s Assistant came to interview the Sisters to determine if they were ready for Religious Life. When he saw that I was twenty-five, he replied, “I guess you are old enough to know better!”
The paths of Sister Euphemina and I crossed again at Saint Ann School in Homestead, Pennsylvania, my first mission. Sister Euphemina was my Superior. I taught grades five and six in the same classroom.
Later, I taught seventh graders for many years throughout various schools in Pennsylvania. In 1963, I began teaching secondary school business classes, typing, bookkeeping, and shorthand. I enjoyed working with the high schoolers. Although I was in high school I never went to my prom, I was now helping my students to plan and decorate for their prom. Thus, I felt I was enjoying going to a prom through them.
It seemed as if I was always teaching or going to school. I went to Duquesene University on the weekends and received a Bachelor of Science in Business Education. I went to Notre Dame and received a Master of Science in Business Administration, mostly for those preparing to work in community offices. In addition to my own studying, I would teach CCD classes during the summer.
My spiritual life has been nourished by my daily prayer and yearly retreats throughout my religious life. The merger with the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth was a significant event. I felt I became a part of a larger family of loving and caring Sisters. My life as life a religious has been God’s blessings every day. God’s will be done.