Mary Menahan McGinty Piderit
11-11-1919 – 2-15-2018
Mary McGinty Piderit Born on May 11, 1919, and the fourth child in a family of three boys and two girls, Mary Menahan McGinty grew up in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. The family moved its residence a few times, but it was always within three or four blocks of Bushwick Avenue, which winds its way through various neighborhoods, including Greenpoint, Bedford Stuyvesant and the Ridgewood sections of Brooklyn. At that time, the ethnic composition was mostly Irish and German. Eventually the family settled at 875 Putnam Avenue, and this is where young Mary lived from about the age of six until she got married. The family was a member of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, and the church was only about ten houses away from the McGinty residence. She and her three older brothers went to Our Lady of Good Counsel Grammar School, which was around the block from their home. Upon graduation, each of her brothers attended Brooklyn Prep, a high school run by the Society of Jesus, i.e., the Jesuits, and then they went on to Fordham University in the Bronx. Two of her brothers entered the Society of Jesus. The oldest one, Fr. Jack McGinty, S.J., eventually became the Provincial of the New York Province of the Society of Jesus. The other Jesuit, Ed, was assigned to the Philippines to study philosophy. While there, he fell sick and it was difficult for him to get good medical care during World War II. He died in 1946 and is buried in the Philippines. Upon graduation from elementary school in 1932, young Mary attended St. Francis Xavier Girls High School (now St. Francis Xavier Academy) on President Street. For college she chose Manhattanville College, located in a section of Manhattan (at 137th Street and Convent Avenue) called Manhattanville at that time. The Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus ran the school and she spent four happy and productive years there. As a good student, she was intermittently excused from some classes on Friday. On such Fridays, the young man Fred W. Piderit, Jr., whom Mary had met through one of her brothers, would take the train down from Dartmouth College where he was studying and visit young Mary, always under the watchful eye of one of the Religious, who would be walking up and down the corridor outside the parlors where young women were allowed to be with their dates for a limited period of time. On other occasions, young Mary took the train up to Hanover, New Hampshire, where Dartmouth is located, and spent the weekend there. The young women all stayed in a particular residence. They would go out with their dates on the weekend, but there was a curfew, and the boys were not allowed to be in the women’s residence, nor were the women allowed in the men’s residences. In 1941, shortly after Fred received his Masters from Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Banking, Mary and Fred got married, and they took up residence in Richmond Hill, a community about a 20-minute car ride away from Bushwick, where Mary’s parents lived. In 1943, their first child, Fred W. Piderit, III, was born. After the second child was born, they purchased a house on 84th Avenue, a block away from Forest Park. Mary and Fred then had ten additional children. In 1957 after the tenth child, Edward, was born, the family moved a few blocks way to a larger house and had a contractor add on several more rooms to the house. All three places where the couple lived were within three blocks of Holy Child Jesus Church and the local Elevated Train, which is what Fred used to get to work each day at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. In those days large families were not very unusual. In fact, the Piderits lived right next to the Werners, who had eleven children. Despite the large number of Piderit children, Mary Piderit did not seem under great pressure, though her days were busy and long. She did not work outside the home because she had much to attend to inside the home. She was there when the children came home from school. The children changed into their play clothes, get a snack, maybe do some homework, and then go out and play with other children on the block. Mothers with large families don’t have regular vacations. However, Mary had a quasi vacation each summer. She still had to care for all the children while Fred was off at work. However, her parents invited all the Piderits to join them in the house they had at Rockaway Point, which faced the ocean. Indeed, the edge of the ocean was only fifty yards away. This was a paradise for the children. No cars were within a half mile of where the children played, so they were given free reign, as long as they returned to the house regularly. And there was a strict rule about going into the ocean: No Piderit child was allowed to go into the ocean unless Mary or Fred was down at the shoreline watching them. For Mary, the vacation consisted in being able to spend time with her parents, with whom the Piderits lived. Fred continued to go into work every day, driving into Carnarsie in Brooklyn and then taking the El train from there. And when her parents were younger, they helped Mary in keeping an eye on the children or pointing out to their grandchildren what chores they had to do to help their mother. In addition, many of Mary’s siblings came down to visit at Rockaway Point during the summer. This tenweek interlude each summer was indeed a wonderful change of pace for Mary. The children all attended Holy Child Jesus School. Upon graduation they all went to Catholic high schools. The boys went to Xavier High School, a military school run by the Jesuits, and the girls went either to Convent of the Sacred Heart, run by the Religious of the Sacred Heart, or to Dominican Academy on East 68th Street. And then all of the children went on and obtained their degrees from Catholic colleges or universities. While the two youngest children were still in high school or college, in 1979 Fred Piderit, Jr., passed away after a short struggle with cancer. Always conservative in arranging the finances for the family, Fred made sure there were adequate funds for Mary to continue to care for the family. This she did in noble fashion. For about twenty years, she continued the practice of living in Richmond Hill and spending summers at Breezy Point. (By this time the family moved about a half-mile along the ocean front from Rockaway Point to Breezy Point.) By about 2003 Mary started to slow down. Her memory was not as good and she needed someone to look after her. Edward, her number-ten child, volunteered to take care of her. A good cook, he looked after her from 2003 onward. In her latter years, in the warmer weather Mary would be out on the deck of the house, facing the ocean, and enjoying the sun and the breeze. When the grandchildren came to visit, she always perked up. Eventually she began to slow down, and on Monday, January 15, 2018, the Lord gently called her back to Himself.
PIDERIT—Mary M. died peacefully in her sleep at her home in Breezy Point, NY, on Feb. 15, 2018 at the age of 98. She is survived by her sister, Kathleen McGinty of Richmond Hill, and by her 12 children – Fred. W. Piderit, III, Rev. John J. Piderit, S.J., Mary Alanah Piderit, Juleen Flanigan, Cecily Brancaccio, Celeste Murphy, Ann Gibbs, Francis X. Piderit, Mary Clare Rubin, Edward P. Piderit, Thomas I. Piderit and Joie de Marie Piderit, as well as by 60 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The daughter of John J. and Kathleen M. McGinty, originally of Brooklyn and later of Richmond Hill, she attended St. Francis Academy in Brooklyn, the Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart, and St. John’s University. She was a magnificent woman and mother, parishioner, lector, teacher, and community leader, who was driven to accomplish everything she could take on, even while raising 12 children. Visitation will be at Leahy-McDonald Funeral Home, 111-02 Atlantic Avenue, Richmond Hill, NY 11418 (718-849-0785) on Wednesday, Jan. 17 from 7-9PM and on Thurs., Jan. 18th from 2-4PM and 7-9PM. A funeral Mass will be offered for the repose of her soul on Friday, Jan. 19th at 10:45AM at Holy Child Jesus Church, 111-11 86th Avenue, Richmond Hill, NY 11418 (718-847-1860). Those wishing to make a gift in lieu of flowers can make donations to the family cause, which awards a scholarship annually to a deserving graduate of Holy Child Jesus School, by making. checks payable to “Fred W. Piderit Jr. Memorial Scholarship Fund,” c/o Francis X. Piderit, 346 W.15th Street, No. 2, New York, NY 10011.
Fr. John Piderit’s Homily for his Mother
Mass of Christian Burial
Mother, Holy Child Jesus, Jan. 19, 2018, 10:45 a.m.
We come as members of the Church to pray for Mary McGinty Piderit and understand her life as part of God’s plan, within the Church, within this parish of Holy Child Jesus, and within the family. All of these were important parts of the life of Mary Piderit and of the mission given to her by the Lord.
Mary had very good training in the Catholic faith. It stems from her years at Our Lady of Good Counsel on Putnam Avenue in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, where she grew up under the eye and direction of her devout parents. Number four child and the first girl, Mary has other important religious influences; her three older brothers all went to Jesuit high schools. Eventually two of those brothers, Jack and Ed, entered the Jesuits. Her other two big religious influences were the Sisters of the Cenacle, who had a cenacle close to Manhattanville, her college, and, of course, the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who ran Manhattanville College, which at that time was located at 134th Street and Convent Avenue, in a section of Manhattan that was known as Manhattanville.
All of these were important influences, but you will forgive me if I focus on the Jesuit influence. As you know, the Jesuit motto in Latin is Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, AMDG, which means “To the greater Glory of God.” A very significant word in this motto is “greater.” Jesuits are asked to choose to do those things that lead to God’s greater glory. So not do merely good things, but things which, because of a persons’ gifts or training, they can do and others can’t, things that promote God’s presence and impact on people in the world.
That is, she had a strong religious bent even before she had children. And my Dad, Fred Piderit, picked up on this. Although he was a banker, he liked working with his hands. After their engagement, he started working on something to give to Mary as a gift made by his hands. He made two prie dieus, which are kneelers, for their bedroom, so together they could say their night prayers. We children knew about these because they were in the bedroom and, to our questions, Mary would respond, “Your Father made them for me.”
For Mary the religious focus on the family started in a fairly straightforward way. For example, in those days, for Catholics a new baby was baptized usually on the Sunday or at most the second Sunday after the mother returned from the hospital with her infant. Because Mary had her brother, Fr. Jack the Jesuit priest, after leaving the hospital she would arrange to have her brother at Holy Child Jesus and he would baptize the child as she came home from the hospital with the newborn, even before she even entered her house. The first thing to do was to make them members of the Kingdom of God.
Mary considered each of her children as a beautiful gift from God to her and our Dad. They were to be cared for and used to God’s greater Glory. This meant two things: giving them good religious training, but also putting them on display as beautiful results of God’s handiwork.
Here are some examples of displays Mary arranged for God’s greater glory.
When Mary’s own mother, May Menahan McGinty, died in 1964, Vatican II was underway and Mary had the spirit of Vatican II in her bones. At that time, children did not usually go to funerals. But Mary thought otherwise and consulted with her brother, Fr. Jack the Jesuit priest, who approved of the plan. At the funeral Mass here in Holy Child Jesus Church, all her children were present, even the very young ones. The girls were all dressed in beautiful white dresses as a sign of the resurrection. We should be happy, Mother said, with the prospect that her mother and the grandmother to all these children is in heaven.
Perfection was important for Mary; after all it was for God’s greater glory. In the hospital after birth, the nurse would give the new infant to Mary, and then after the nurse left the room, Mary would count fingers and toes and inspect the baby to make sure there were no defects. (We said to her, “Mom, were you going to return us for another infant if we did have a defect?”) At important events she wanted to make her children look perfect. Every year she and the entire family attended her alumnae gathering at Manhattanville. Even though she wanted all the children to look perfect, she realized that the children and their outfits had to survive an hour-long trip in the car to Manhattanvile. So she had a plan which she executed every year. In the car for the first 55 minutes the girls would be in their crinolines. Dresses for the girls and suit jackets for the boys were hanging in the car. Five minutes before arriving at the college, the transformation took place. Dad would stop the car on a quiet suburban street. Mary would brush the girls’ hair and put on their dresses and the boys put on their jackets. The girls were then instructed to sit on the edge of the seat in the car; there were to be no wrinkles! Then Dad would drive the last five minutes to Manhattan, where the Reverend Mother would greet each alumna as she arrived. When Mary arrived with her brood and we got out of the car, Reverend Mother would say, “Oh Mary, how do you do it?” We all knew how Mary did it, but we were too excited to be there to offer a clarification.
Mother, Dad, and all the children loved Rockaway and Breezy Point, where we spent our summers. We went to Mass every day, but on Sunday everyone had to be dressed up for Mass. So we all looked prefect walking to Mass along the boardwalk. But mother had a problem. She wanted to teach the children that Sunday was the Lord’s day, the entire day, not just in the morning for Sunday Mass, and she knew that as soon as we children got back from Mass and had breakfast we would all change into our bathing suits. So she developed a plan and then executed it. For both the girls and boys, each year she purchased a set of more elegant bathing suits, and these were the Sunday bathing suits, to be worn only on Sundays and on August 15, the Feast of the Assumption. It was a large family and one had to conserve financial resources. So, the Sunday bathing suits of one year became the weekday bathing suits of the following year!
Speaking of Rockaway Point, at the beach there were always among the children slips and falls, scratches cuts, and splinters. Whenever a sibling cut himself or herself and we brought the crying child to Mother, the first medicine she would ask for was Lourdes water, and we all knew where the Lourdes water was kept. The wound would first be sprinkled with Lourdes water and after that, secondary medical attention was provided.
One more religious lesson of Mary for the children and for the greater Glory of God. The most important thing on Christmas Day was the Christmas Mass. No Piderit child was allowed to see any present until everyone had been to Christmas Mass here at Holy Child. But even then, we did not get to see the presents. First, the family had breakfast together and the children received their stockings with small gifts and some fruit and candy. Then we went into the back room and gave presents to our Mom and Dad. No presents from Santa Claus were to be seen until all that had taken place. In fact, that front room had a large, heavy, opaque curtain that Dad hung over the door to frustrate inquiring little eyes. By the time we finished the family exchange of gifts in the back room, the grandparents would have arrived. In addition, there were some of the aunts and uncles. At about 12:30 or 1 pm, we were allowed to go into the front room to get our Santa presents, and interestingly, we children were totally happy the entire morning. The delay seemed normal and it was fully of activities. Mary knew how to execute for the greater Glory of God.
We children liked going to daily Mass here at Holy Child Jesus. For her part, Mary liked knowing all the people at Mass. She would ask both them and her children to pray for special intentions, for people in special need of prayers. One day when I was out at Loyola University Chicago and was experiencing difficulty with the faculty, I got a call from my sister Joie. She said, “John, Mother tells me that you are at the top of the prayer list. Why are you in so much trouble?”
Mary’s focus was not just the family. As long as my Father was alive, Mary and he were a team in the parish. Each one volunteered for many activities, and they loved interacting with parishioners. They also loved the priests. Mother and Dad knew all the priests. She had a great relationship with Msgr. Kelty, Mgr. Murray, Fr. Healy, Msgr. Leonard. Fro Hogan, Fr. Bob More, Fr. John Boylan, Fr. Antoncic, Fr. Cantania, and now with Fr. Heanue and Bishop Cisneros. By the way, both Fr. Heanue and Bishop Cisneros are out of the country but they both called me and said how sorry they were that they could not be present. Bishop Mugovero, Bishop Joe Sullivan, Bishop McGann, who came from her own Brooklyn parish of Our Lady of Good Counsel, Bishop Daily, Bishop Valero.
Let us consider the challenges of the past 15 years. Mary was content and happy, but she could no longer get around on her own and she was no longer as alert and attentive as she had been. Why does God allow such things to happen to very loyal servants of his? Whatever the explanation, Mary patiently accepted God’s will. It certainly was mysterious what God was asking of her, but she could easily fit it into a life of seeking whatever led to God’s greater Glory. Of course, these last fifteen years are part and parcel of God’s gift to the family, the parish, and her friends through Mary. Number ten child in the Piderit family, who does not want to be mentioned by name, showed by his actions that he was willing to be the primary caretaker. Cooking, doing exercises with Mary, prompting Mother to say some things, complimenting her for her good appetite, encouraging her to eat more, being with her all days and at all times – this was his commitment to his Mother and God’s greater Glory.
This type of existence may appear as a much diminished part of Mary’s life. In some ways that is true. But God is love, and his only motive can be love. He loves individuals, and families, and communities of people, and parish communities are a special part of the structure of the Church. He does things to help people grow in love and he seeks loving responses from people.
Mother handled it well. Mother was accustomed to doing things for others. Maybe in God’s plan, all of the last 15 years was for us, to teach us about love. We, the children, the grandchildren, the great grandchildren. We, the parishioners, the priests, the caretakers.
But there are other important personal and religious mysteries. Why have we been given such great gifts? Being born into such a wonderful family. Why members of such a wonderful parish as Holy Child Jesus? Why have we been given the gift of faith?
As members or the Church we take delight in the holy ones, but also pray for them. Now we continue with the Eucharist, the best form of thanksgiving to God for Mary McGinty Piderit and the best way to grow in our faith and commit to God’s greater Glory.