This Day in Covenant House History: Remembering Sister Mary Rose

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Sister Mary Rose’s tenure as Covenant House director remains foundational to the capacity of our organization today. Photo: Covenant House Vancouver.

9/13/21

By Sam Buisman – Covenant House Alaska Staff Writer

Today marks the ninth anniversary of the passing of Sister Mary Rose McGeady, whose leadership allowed Covenant House to flourish internationally as it entered the 21st century. 

Sister Mary Rose served as Covenant House’s second director from 1990 to 2003. Taking the reins amidst a period of upheaval and plummeting donations, she revitalized Covenant House and guided the organization into a golden age of international growth.

Born in 1928, Mary Rose quickly found and heeded her life’s calling. She attended Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul’s Immaculate Conception Academy and joined the cloth in 1946. 

After graduating from Emmanuel College with a sociology degree in 1955, she worked with various child-care nonprofits before and while continuing her education at Fordham University, achieving her master’s in clinical psychology in 1961. Across the next few decades, she hopped between East Coast charities before rising to an executive position with the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn. 

Then, in 1990, Mary Rose was chosen to lead Covenant House. At the time, the organization was hemorrhaging money, with annual donations dropping by nearly half over the past year. 

Mary Rose not only reversed Covenant House’s downward spiral but ushered in a period of dramatic growth that proved definitive to the organization Covenant House is today. During her tenure as director, she more than tripled our annual donations and oversaw the opening of 11 new Covenant House sites, including Covenant House Alaska. 

An innovative thinker, she also took steps to adapt Covenant House’s outreach to the changing technology of the new millennium by rolling out our 24-hour crisis hotline, “the Nineline.” 

At the time of her retirement in 2003, Covenant House was steadily rising in donations and operating in 22 cities across North and Central America. 

Today, Covenant House is active in 31 cities across six countries and has served over 1 million children. It is impossible that we would have been able to reach these heights without the industriousness and courageousness of Mary Rose. 

Sister Mary Rose died in 2012, but her legacy lives on within the doors of every Covenant House and in the smiles on the faces of kids who come through them. We are eternally proud of and grateful for her service, and we hope that she would feel the same way about ours.

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