Sister Magdalen Hession, humble servant and ‘baseball nun’ dies at 85

By Joan Kurkowski-Gillen


November 22, 2013

Sister Maggie Hession was active in Catholic healthcare for decades and a Ranger fan from 1972 on.

They were both members of the Congregation of Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word and longtime friends. But it’s the baseball reference Sister Frances Evans used that best describes the death of Sister Magdalen (Maggie) Hession, CCVI, on Nov. 20 from Alzheimer’s Disease.

“Maggie crossed home plate and is now with Jesus,” Sr. Frances said of her cherished companion and fellow Texas Ranger baseball enthusiast.

Mass of Christian Burial is set for Monday, Nov. 25 at St. Andrew Church. Friends can visit on Nov. 24 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Thompson, Harveson, and Cole Funeral Home. Following visitation, a Rosary will be recited at 7 p.m. in St. Andrew Church.

Born on Oct. 20, 1928, in County Galway, Ireland, Bridget Hession entered the Congregation of Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word on Aug. 15, 1948, and was given the religious name of Magdalen. She professed her first vows Aug. 15, 1951, and perpetual vows Aug. 15, 1956.

After earning a degree in nursing from Incarnate Word College (now University of the Incarnate Word) in San Antonio, Sr. Maggie began a career in healthcare and worked at Santa Rosa Hospital in San Antonio, Incarnate Word Hospital in St. Louis, and St. Joseph Hospital and Plaza Medical Center, both in Fort Worth. Her longest period of service was 31 years at St. Joseph Hospital where she was in charge of the surgical unit.

Known throughout the Fort Worth/Dallas Metroplex as the “Rangers Nuns,” the sisters gained widespread renown for their fan loyalty. They sat in the same seats at every Rangers home game, and when the Ballpark at Arlington opened in 1994, they were the first fans through the turnstiles. Former owner Tom Schieffer and Hall-of-Fame pitcher and former owner Nolan Ryan are among their friends.

The sisters’ fascination with Texas Rangers baseball started when both were working at the now-closed St. Joseph Hospital. When the Washington Senators relocated to Texas and scheduled their first home game for April 21, 1972 in Arlington, Sr. Frances had a friend who worked near the stadium’s box office pick up a $10 ticket for her. She was instantly smitten by the excitement of big league baseball and coaxed Sr. Maggie into coming to the games with her.

“Sr. Maggie didn’t know anything about baseball and Sr. Frances, who grew up a tomboy, taught her all about the game,” said Patrice Parks, one of many volunteers who drove the sisters to the baseball stadium for games. “They knew all about the Texas Rangers pitching, line-up, and injuries.”

The Frost Bank employee formed a friendship with the sisters after they helped her get a baseball signed for a little boy dying from a brain tumor. The four-year-old, the son of a friend, caught the foul ball during a Rangers game and wanted the player who hit the ball, Julio Franco, to sign it.

Sr. Frances and Sr. Maggie not only got the baseball signed by Franco, they brought a treasure chest full of bats, caps, t-shirts, and other special items for the sick youngster.

“During his last few days at Cook Children’s Hospital, Sr. Frances and Sr. Maggie went to see him and prayed with the family,” Parks recalls. “They felt a connection to the little boy.”

Two years ago, Parks started a Facebook page titled the “Ranger Nuns” to honor the pair. The picture-filled site now includes tributes to Sr. Maggie.

One part of the “dynamic duo,” Sr. Maggie was known for her quiet presence and constant smile.

“She had the sweetest-sounding giggle. I’ll miss that,” Parks said.

Barbara Clarkin met Sr. Maggie and Sr. Francis 45 years ago during a Christmas party at St. Joseph Hospital.

“I would call Sr. Maggie a humble servant. She would do anything anyone asked of her,” the St. Andrew parishioner said. “I never saw her without a smile on her face.”

When Clarkin’s son was being treated for ALS, both sisters would visit him, “and I’m grateful for that,” she said.

After St. Joseph closed its chapel, Sr. Maggie and Sr. Frances began attending daily Mass at St. Andrew Church.

“St. Andrew became their parish home, and the whole congregation became their family,” Clarkin added.

After retirement Sr. Maggie continued to volunteer wherever she perceived a physical or spiritual need. She frequently ministered to nursing home residents and shut-ins.

After her Alzheimer’s Disease diagnosis, Sr. Maggie stopped attending baseball games because of the noise and heat. But her room in the assisted living center continued to reflect her love of the Texas Rangers.

“She had a Texas Rangers bedspread, tablecloth, and pictures of the coaches and players everywhere,” Parks explained. “Even the bathroom had baseball mitts and bats on the wall.”

Sr. Maggie was preceded in death by her parents, Bridget and Patrick Hession; siblings, Michael Hession, Mary Connell, James Hession, and Patrick Hession. Survivors include her sister, Nora Murphy of Hudson, New Hampshire; nieces and nephews in the United States and Ireland; longtime friend, Sr. Frances Evans; and the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word.

Memorials can be made to the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word Retirement Fund, 4530 Broadway, San Antonio, Texas 78209 or the Alzheimer's Association, 2630 West Freeway, Fort Worth, Texas 76102.

They were both members of  the Congregation of Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word and longtime friends. But it’s the baseball reference Sister Frances Evans used that best describes the death of Sister Magdalen (Maggie) Hession on Nov. 20 from Alzheimer’s Disease.

Published (until 12/12/2031)