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COUNTDOWN: DAYS HRS MINS SECS

Julia Hillary, CDP

Sister Julia Hillary is a groundskeeper at Mishannock Convent in Kingston, Mass., and she works in the library at Sacred Heart High School (Kingston). Her ministry, since 1958, has been in education. She was an elementary teacher at St. Francis Xavier School (South Weymouth, Mass.), St. Cecilia School (Stamford, Conn.), and Sacred Heart Elementary (Kingston), and was a teacher of life skills to mentally challenged children at Cardinal Cushing School (Hanover, Mass.). She was a life enrichment specialist and bereavement coordinator at Cranberry Hospice (Kingston) from 1988–99.

Sister Julia’s family was most influential in her decision to enter religious life. She remembers praying the rosary together as a family, and said that reading missionary magazines and learning the plight of the neglected enkindled a desire in her to become a missionary. A local parish priest, Fr. Connors, introduced her to the Sisters at Sacred Heart High School, where she met Sister Irenea, who convinced her that she had “come to the right place.” Shortly thereafter, in 1955, she entered the Community.

One of Sister Julia’s most moving experiences came when she visited a hospice patient who had been diagnosed with cancer of the tongue. He lived alone, and when he refused help from the hospice team, she was asked to visit him. When she entered his room, window shade drawn, she noticed, upon drawing closer, his long matted beard, which gave him an unsightly appearance. As the visit progressed, he allowed her to open the shade, and with gentle persuasion, he allowed her to wash his face and shave him. She recalls, “With each stroke of the razor, right before my eyes, a most beautiful face was revealed. I thought to myself, and felt profoundly, ‘this truly is the face of Jesus.’ For me, God’s Providence was made visible in human form.”