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Sister Virginia McKenna

by RSHM Eastern American AreaCategory: Obituaries

woman with short gray hair, round glasses, cranberry jacket and light pink striped blouse

Sister Virginia McKenna, RSHM, died peacefully at Marymount Convent, Tarrytown, NY, Wednesday, August 16, 2023. She was 87 years of age and had been a member of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary for 69 years.

She was born Mary Scholastica McKenna in Glen Cove, NY, on December 23, 1935, to Michael J. and Mary Sullivan McKenna.

She received a BA in English from Marymount College, Tarrytown, NY, and a MASL from Rosary College, IL.

Sr. Virginia grew up in St. Thomas of Aquinas Parish, Bronx, NY, where the RSHM staffed the parochial school. She went to the nearby Sacred Heart of Mary Academy on Marmion Avenue. After graduating, she entered the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary at the RSHM Novitiate in Tarrytown, NY, on September 8, 1954. She made her first vows on April 1, 1956, in Tarrytown, where she also made her final vows on August 25, 1961.

Sr. Virginia taught in many of the schools staffed by the RSHM. Her first assignments were in New York, where she taught in Sag Harbor at St. Andrew’s School (1956-1961) and in Garden City at St. Anne’s School (1961-1962).

She taught in Florida at St. Lawrence School in North Miami Beach (1962-1967), before moving to Illinois to teach at St. Colette’s School in Rolling Meadows (1967-1968). In Virginia, she taught at St. John’s School in Arlington (1969-1971). She returned to Rolling Meadows and taught at St. Colette’s for another year (1971-1972).

While living in Rolling Meadows, Sr. Virginia studied for a Master’s in Library Science at Rosary College in Chicago. After completing her studies, she began a new ministry as a librarian at Marymount College, Tarrytown, NY. She worked in the college library for 22 years in several capacities, including head librarian. (1972-1996).

She was head librarian at Marymount University, Arlington, VA (1996-2007). At the end of her service at Marymount University, she became a Literacy Volunteer in Arlington (2007-2010).

After leaving Arlington, Sr. Virginia went to Sag Harbor, NY, where she lived at St. Andrew’s Convent and helped at Cormaria Retreat House (2010-2017). In 2017, she moved to Marymount Convent, Tarrytown, NY, and was living there at the time of her death.

Sister Virginia is survived by her twin sister, Kathleen McKenna Votaw, and her nephew, John S. Votaw, and by the members of her religious family.                                                

Services at Marymount Convent, 32 Warren Avenue, Tarrytown, NY. Visiting is on Tuesday, August 22, from 4:00 – 7:00 pm with a Vigil Service at 7:00 pm. Mass of Christian Burial is Wednesday, August 23, at 10:30 am. Burial at Mount Calvary Cemetery, White Plains.

We invite you to join us for the live-streamed Vigil Service and Mass on our website (, where it will be archived.

In lieu of flowers, gifts in her name may be made to Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, 50 Wilson Park Drive, Tarrytown, NY, 10591.

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