Sr. Mary Rose McGeady, former president of Covenant House, died Sept. 13 at age 84 at St. Louise House in Albany, N.Y CNS photo courtesy of Covenant House

Sr. Rose McGeady put kids’ needs first

By 
  • September 20, 2012

TORONTO - Sr. Mary Rose McGeady, who took over Covenant House for homeless youth after its founder was accused of financial and sexual improprieties, will be remembered in Toronto as a tireless, enthusiastic and passion- ate role model, said Carol Howes.

Howes, director of Program Services at Covenant House in downtown Toronto, said Sr. McGeady “had the needs of the kids first and foremost and that’s what drove all of her decisions around where the agency went.”

Sr. McGeady, who ran Covenant House from 1990 to 2003, died of respiratory failure in Albany, N.Y., on Sept. 13. She was 84.
After Covenant House was rocked by financial and sexual scandal, Sr. McGeady stepped in and is credited with rescuing the organization, restoring its resources and reputation.

A member of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, during her time as Covenant House president, the number of homeless young people served by the international network doubled annually.

According to Howes, Sr. McGeady inspired Covenant House staff to do more for the kids they worked with.

“I was always really impressed that when she would come to speak to our staff or our donors, she always had some kind of personal story to tell about the kids,” Howes said.

She recalls Sr. McGeady’s habit of meeting youth in elevators, for example, casually speaking to them about their lives and following up when she ran into them at a later date.

“She really did stay very connected to what challenges the kids were dealing with. And that was helpful in terms of helping all of us find ways to be supportive to the kids. “

Sr. McGeady was in her mid-60s when she became president and kept in touch with each Covenant House through travels to countries where Covenant House programs operate.
“She really had a passion for expanding services as much as possible because she was hearing about need all over the place, both here in Canada, across some other (U.S.) states and in Central America,” said Howes.

During her tenure, Covenant House expanded its reach dramatically, with new crisis shelters, street outreach and long-term residential programs for homeless youth.

“Here in Canada, we felt that she was very instrumental in allowing us to expand our services through the purchase of an additional building so we could have transitional housing, our rights of passage program for youth, and that allowed us to have a space for our school program and our job centre program.”

She was a strong advocate who saw need and acted upon it, said Howes. And that’s why there is also a Covenant House in Vancouver.

Covenant House now reaches more than 57,000 children and youth in six countries each year.

Sr. McGeady was born June 28, 1928, in Hazelton, Pa., and worked with children for more than 40 years before joining Covenant House. Howes said Sr. McGeady “would want to be re- membered for the impact that she had on the lives of young people and how she helped them turn their lives around.”

(With files from Catholic News Service.)

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