Faith of occupational therapist from Unity never faded
Susan Hennessy was solid in her Catholic faith, and the struggles she endured fighting cancer the past six months did nothing to shake her belief, said her husband, Daniel Hennessy.
“She was on a journey of faith,” he said. “A lot of Sue’s faith was rooted in her family. She went to parish schools as a young girl and was very, very involved in the (church) youth program.”
Susan F. Hennessy of Unity died Friday, June 15, 2018, while on a pilgrimage to Czestochowa, Poland, shortly after receiving communion and seeing Our Lady of Czestochowa, known as the Black Madonna. She had communion after cancer surgery and “her last meal was the Eucharist,” Hennessy said.
She was born Feb. 22, 1958, in Queens, N.Y., the daughter of Stella S. Sondej Biernacki of Waldwick, N.J., and the late Stanley E. Biernacki.
Her grandparents immigrated from Poland, and she was proud of her Polish heritage, her husband said.
“Her first language was Polish,” he said.
Being Polish meant “there was not a holiday that did not have keilabasa in it,” Hennessy joked.
The couple met while in college in Troy, N.Y. — she at Russell Sage College and he at Renssalear Polytechnic Institute. Shortly after she graduated, they were married in May 1982.
The couple moved to the Latrobe area from Ohio in 1989, when Hennessy was transferred by Timken Steel of Canton to the former Latrobe Steel Co.
They were active at St. Vincent Basilica Parish and were involved in the youth group for many years. Recently, she was a member of parish council, a Christ Life team member and a leader of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, her husband said.
Mrs. Hennessy was a member of the Militia Immaculata Bible Study group — a group of women who have been meeting for years to build each other’s faith. They were among the first people he contacted after his wife died, he said.
“They were sisters to Sue. They were very close … and had that kind of bond,” he said.
Mrs. Hennessy was a self-employed occupational therapist. Prior to retiring after 32 years, she primarily treated children up to three years old.
She cared so much for the children she helped that she took sign language classes to communicate with a deaf mother of one of the children, her husband said.
Their pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2017 was a “life-changing experience,” he said.
“It opened up the Bible for us,” he said.
In addition to her mother and husband, she is survived by three daughters, Katharine Hennessy of Virginia Beach, Alyssa Goetz of Irwin, and Sarah Hennessy, of Unity; one son, Sean Hennessy of Centreville, Va.; one sister, Marianne Agner of Hawthorne, N.J.; and four grandchildren.
Friends will be received 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 27, 2018, in Hartman-Graziano Funeral Home, 1500 Ligonier St., Latrobe. The Divine Mercy Chaplet will be prayed at 1:45 p.m. Wednesday. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Vincent Basilica at Saint Vincent College. Those attending the funeral are asked to go directly to the basilica. Interment will be at Saint Vincent Cemetery.
Memorial contributions can be made to the American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 22478, Oklahoma City, OK 73123, online at www.cancer.org, or to Life-Way Pregnancy Center, 1516 Ligonier St., Latrobe, PA 15650.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer.