Remembering Two Doctorate of Humane Letters Awarded to Mother Angeline

Doctorate Degree photo Brother Gregory Nugent, F.S.C., President of Manhattan College

Many colleges bestow honorary degrees on people for their lasting impact on society – presidents, musicians, authors, scholars, clergymen, business leaders, and sports figures, to name a few. Universities usually award this degree to a distinguished person, having no previous connection to the university, at the end of a graduation ceremony to signify that the degree is the highest the university can grant. One such honorary degree is the Doctorate of Humane Letters, usually given in recognition of achievements related to the humanities or for charitable work – not through academic efforts but instead gained though significant contributions to society. An honorary degree is a degree honoris causa, ‘for the sake of the honor’, meaning that the degree is an honorary title meant to show respect. In 1970, Venerable Mary Angeline Teresa received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Manhattan College and one from Siena College. These citations are an acknowledgement of Mother Angeline’s revolutionary approach in caring for the elderly: making the latter years of elderly people’s lives meaningful and happy, with love and individual care.

Manhattan College Riverdale, NY
Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters

“All too frequently the charity that begins at home—and stays there—burns out into cold gray ashes; but the blazing flame of Christian charity that leaps the borders of homeland to warm and enlighten the people of other lands burns with an everlasting flame. And so, Mother M. Angeline Teresa, who came to our shores during World War I, a wandering apostle like so many of her Irish forbears during the dark ages of Europe, came to us from Ireland by way of France. In 1929, in the depth of the depression, Mother [Angeline], in concert with Manhattan’s alumnus, Patrick Cardinal Hayes, founded the Congregation of the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm. From its original seven members the Congregation has grown to 500 Religious and is serving the aged and infirm as far south as Florida and as far west as Davenport in some 35 homes*. Some of our Christian heroes and heroines, in the face of the anguish of human existence, have dedicated themselves to the poor; others to the vibrant young; it is of the fiber of Mother Angeline’s vocation to confront the so-called “absurdity” of human decline and death and to transmute it into charity. If we might paraphrase an encomium of one of her countrymen: In the realms of suffering her charitable work rises like a Te Deum, its outpouring major key sounding liberation to the dying and comfort to those in need. Plunging her charity into its eternal roots, she has kept it clean of all debasement. She has ever kept the delicate balance between the individual and the person, so that today in all her homes an environment has been created to preserve both individualism and personalism. In recognition of her great work Manhattan deems it an honor to confer on Mother M. Angeline Teresa the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.”

Brother Gregory Nugent, F.S.C., President
Brother Stephen Sullivan, F.S.C., Academic Vice President
October 18, 1970
* meaning approximately

Doctorate degree photo Most Rev. Edwin B. Broderick, Venerable Mary Angeline Teresa, with clergy


“Pope Pius XII, of happy memory, once made this wise and felicitous observation: “True religion and profound humaneness are not rivals. They are sisters.” This quotation can indeed serve as a brief summary of the many years of Christ-like labor which Reverend Mother M. Angeline Teresa has devoted
to the love and care of neighbor. Before pronouncing her vows as a religious of the Carmelite Order,
she had pursued her studies in her native Ireland and subsequently in Scotland and France. Then, as
a Carmelite nun, she came to the United States, and it was in our own country that she founded the Congregation of the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm. Today her Congregation consists of almost five hundred religious who staff thirty-three homes, some of which are in locations as distant as Iowa and Florida, Ireland and Scotland. But the guiding principle inspiring this work of Christian love is not numerical growth but rather the God-given dignity of the individual person, aged or infirm, regardless of race, color or creed. This noble apostolate had gained the approval of Popes Pius XI, Pius XII, and Paul VI; and in the year 1961, Reverend Mother was awarded by Pope John XXIII the medal Pro Ecclseia et Pontifice. Within the past year, the Church has seen fit to confer upon Saint Teresa of Avila, the great reformer and mystic of the Carmelite Order, the title of Doctor of the Church. And so, Reverend President, Siena College can feel honored in conferring upon this daughter of Carmel the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.”

May 31, 1970
Presented by Reverend Brian Duffy, OFM

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