Former Dominican Prioress Expanded Sisters’ Ministries

Sister Irene Garvey, O.P.

The former prioress of the Sisters of St. Dominic, Amityville, Sister Irene Garvey, O.P., died Aug. 30 after 72 years as a member of the congregation. She was 91.

A native of Queens, she attended St. Thomas Apostle School, Woodhaven; Bishop McDonnell H.S., Brooklyn; before entering the novitiate at Queen of the Rosary Motherhouse in 1945. She took the religious name, Sister Joseph Paul, and pronounced her vows on Aug. 6, 1946.

She taught at St. Pius V, Jamaica; St. Margaret, Middle Village; and Curé of Ars, Merrick, L.I.

In 1955, after nine years teaching elementary grades, she was assigned to St. Nicholas H.S. in Williamsburg, and then to St. Agnes Academic H.S., College Point.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree in English at St. John’s University, she pursued a master’s degree in speech at Fordham University and a doctorate at Teacher’s College, Columbia University. In 1966, she was assigned to teach speech at Molloy College, Rockville Centre, where she also served as chairperson of the Communication Arts Department.

In 1973, she was elected superior general of the congregation, a role she held until 1981. Prior to her election, she served as Regional from 1972 to 1973.

During her time as prioress, she was elected chairperson of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Region II.

When interviewed for the book, “Habits of Change: An Oral History of American Nuns,” she was quoted as saying, “I loved being in leadership. … I wanted the Sisters to discern what their gifts were (and) to be free . . . to use them. ”

Her tenure was a time of significant change for Sisters: new ministries among the poor and disenfranchised began to emerge and the call to actively participate in justice and peace efforts was embraced by many.

On Oct. 2, 1979, during the visit of Pope St. John Paul II, she was chosen to be a lector at a prayer service for women and men religious at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

In 1981, Sister Irene joined the community at Samaria Prayer Center in Hicksville, L.I. There she engaged in the ministry of spirituality serving as spiritual director to many and as retreat director. Seven years later, she joined the staff of Loyola Retreat House in Morristown, N.J., and remained there until 2002.

She then moved to Harvest Grove, an intercommunity house of retirement in Lake Grove, L.I.

In 2013, she moved to Queen of the Rosary Motherhouse, and while in Carlin Hall, she made it a point to visit Sisters on a regular basis.

Sister Irene is survived by her sister, Virginia.

Burial was in the sisters’ cemetery in Amityville.