Sister Beatrice Mary Keegan died at Saint Joseph Villa on December 12, 2019, and was buried at the Villa on December 18, 2019. Bea was one of six children born to Joseph and Mary Frances Hirst Keegan. Bea grew up in St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Germantown and attended Little Flower High School. When asked who influenced her the most in her early life, Bea mentioned her mother and two Sisters of Saint Joseph, Sisters Clare Eleanor and Juanita, both of whom taught her. While Bea considered following her sister Bobby to Chestnut Hill College, she listened to these three strong women and decided to enter religious life.
Bea entered the Congregation in 1947, and as Sister Beatrice Joseph began her ministry as an elementary school teacher. She spent 41 years in the ministry of education: 12 in elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and 25 years teaching high school in Philadelphia and Bayonne, and eventually four years teaching in the novitiate of the Sisters of Saint Joseph.
In addition to her years instructing the novices, she spent her summers teaching Scripture in the Congregation’s Religious Institute. This experience occurred after the Vatican Council, and this exciting time motivated her students to learn more about Sacred Scripture; likewise, Bea admitted that it enhanced and deepened her own prayer life.
Bea saw new experiences as both a challenge and a blessing. Looking back on her life, Bea described how her prayer life changed from reading and mediating on the Scripture to a more personal, conscious, loving union with God. Our Constitutions state that our life is “… a continuing process of growth in Christ. Each of us assumes the responsibility to continue this process by developing and using our gifts for the sake of the Reign of God.” Bea embraced the changes in both her Church and the Congregation as opportunities to grow and deepen as a religious. Even her change from the Motherhouse to the Villa became a chance for her to enrich her mind and heart and become a fully human and unselfish person.
Born on September 8th, the Blessed Mother’s birthday and entering eternal life on the September 12th, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the 90 years between, Bea had Mary as her constant companion. As her life came to an end, this devoted Sister of Saint Joseph had the rosary in her hand and was said to have prayed these mysteries on a deep and sometimes wordless level.
Bea’s unassuming manner and deep prayerfulness will be her legacy as a true Sister of Saint Joseph.