Sister Eileen McCarthy, of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, a former teacher and family caregiver, died in her sleep July 23 in Cleveland, Ohio, where she was participating in the National Senior Olympics. She was 81.

She is mourned by family members, friends, and her community, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, the SSND reported on Monday. On May 4, Sister Eileen celebrated her 60th anniversary of religious profession with her “crowd” at Villa Notre Dame on Belden Hill Road. She was principal at Our Lady of Fatima School in Wilton from 1975 to 1978.

Eileen McCarthy, the second of three girls, was born on Sept. 27, 1932, in Boston, Mass. Her parents were Dennis and Margaret Mary (née Sullivan) McCarthy, both from County Cork, Ireland, the SSND reported, recounting her early family life. She was baptized Eileen Juliana in honor of her two grandmothers. It was the time of the Great Depression and her father had been laid off. To pay for medical bills, he had to sell his car. On the day of Eileen’s birth, he received word to report back to work. Her father quickly retrieved his car and told her later that from the day she was born, he was never without a job.

She attended Our Lady of Lourdes Grammar School in Jamaica Plain, Mass., from 1938 to 1946, and then attended Mission High School in nearby Roxbury, which was conducted by the School Sisters of Notre Dame, graduating in 1950. Her sister, Marie, entered the SSND Candidature in 1948. Eileen felt quite sure that this was also her vocation, the SSND said. When she expressed her desire to enter the candidature, her parents, trusting in God’s providence, did not object, the SSND said.

On Aug. 28, 1950, she received the bonnet in the Chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Convent, and, along with five companions, traveled that day to the Motherhouse in Baltimore, Md. On July 16, 1952, she entered the Novitiate and was given the name “Dennis.” She was professed on July 24, 1953, and took final vows on July 24, 1959. She taught at Most Holy Name School, Providence, R.I., from 1958 to 1968. While in Providence, she was earned a bachelor’s of science from Providence College in 1964, and a master’s of arts in education reading from the University of Rhode Island in 1968.

In 1975, Sister McCarthy was sent to Our Lady of Fatima School as principal. In 1978, her father became seriously ill, her sister Peggy’s health began to deteriorate, and her mother needed help. Eileen McCarthy went home to Marshfield, Mass., to care for them. She remained at home until 1991 and had the consolation of being with her father and later, her mother, when they died.

In 1991, Sister McCarthy moved to the Convent of the Immaculate Conception in nearby East Weymouth. She watched over her sister and did substitute teaching in local public schools.

Sister McCarthy began to take an interest in jogging in the early 80s following a leg injury. Gradually, her speed increased. In a competition held in Quincy, Mass., in 1983, she captured eight medals and a trophy for best woman athlete. In 1999, she took up swimming with a special liking for the backstroke. She began to qualify in swimming events and in 2012, qualified for the 50-, 100- and 200-meter backstroke races in the National Senior Games to be held in Cleveland, Ohio, in July 2013. She was there, staying with her cousin, when she died in her sleep on July 23, 2013.

Her crowd, as the SSND put it, the Profession class of 1953, gathered to celebrate their Diamond Jubilee at Villa Notre Dame on May 4. She designed the jubilee banner on which were the words “Let us continue to serve the triune God with joy.” Little did she realize how these words define her life, the SSND said.

“Eileen showed an interest in whomever she met and made people feel important and noticed,” the SSND said. “She was faithful to her responsibilities and her love and care for her family were inspiring. Her sense of humor was contagious and her empathy, gentle and insightful. A skilled seamstress, she brought joy to others by her advice, designs, and finished products. Eileen was an excellent teacher and could make contact with her students as was evident in the gratitude of the many students she tutored and the two summer experiences she had teaching in Japan and Hungary. She cared for all of her companion Sisters and never failed to send each one a birthday greeting by email.”

Her sister Peggy died in 2004 and her sister Marie died in 2006.

A wake service was held on July 28 in the Chapel at Villa Notre Dame. The Mass of Christian burial was celebrated on July 29 by the chaplain, the Rev. Thomas Elliott, CSC.

—by the staff