Sister Barbara Riley, RSM, (also known as Sister Julian) 90, died Wednesday, June 21, 2023 in Providence, RI. Born in Fall River, MA, Barbara was the oldest of four daughters of James and Helen Crowley Riley of Fall River. She is survived by her three sisters Fran Powers of Canton, Massachusetts, Helen Griffin and Kathleen Riley of Fall River.
Barbara’s environment in the Catholic neighborhood of Snell Street would introduce her to community from a young age. Surrounded by neighbors who cared for one another and shared the joy of growing up together they continued to be friends even as they left home. After graduating from Mount St. Mary Academy, she would join others from her neighborhood in the Sisters of Mercy on September 8, 1951.
Earning a bachelor’s degree in business from Bryant College and a master’s degree in business from Catholic University, Barbara taught at Mount St. Mary Academy, St. Mary Academy Bay View and Bishop Feehan High School. She loved learning herself and inspired her students to ask questions and seek answers.
Barbara earned a master’s in religious studies from Boston College and began parish work. With the changes of Vatican II Barbara became Director of religious education for Immaculate Conception Parish in North Easton. Barbara’s goal was to assist the parishioners in assuming the new responsibilities given to the laity by Vatican II. At the same time Barbara found herself being driven by social concerns. She was active in protest at federal and state offices and boycotts of grocery stores in support of the migrant farmworkers. Concerned for the rise in violence and abuse of women, she would join groups in prayer vigils at the site of attacks. She worked with migrant workers in North Carolina and spent a year with immigrants at the Texas-Mexican border. Barbara would serve as the Peace and Justice Director for the community.
She was elected President of the region in 1996 and faced the challenge of finding housing for aging sisters as the parish convents had closed. With many meetings and discussion sisters moved to The Landmark in Fall River, Christopher Heights in Attleboro and Franklin Court in Bristol. The new residences became a source of renewable energy as the sisters shared their life and prayer with the other residents.
A trip to Ireland would determine Barbara’s final ministry. With Sister Fran Lynch, she studied the lives of Catherine McAuley and Frances Warde and gave conferences to Sisters and Associates. Eventually they directed Mission Integration at all our ministries. They established Friends of Mercy at Mercymount and St. Mary Academy Bay View that brought students together for prayer, a service project, and contemplation on how the service was developing them as people. Hearing a desire from mothers and teachers for prayer time, they established a Morning Prayer opportunity.
At Mount St. Rita, Barbara continued to share readings and social concerns with others. She attended community events when possible. In an interview in The Rhode Island Catholic on retirement she told the reporter: “I am ‘re-fired’ ready to engage in sharing the mission of my congregation and spreading the Gospel message wherever opportunity arises.”
When Barbara met her God last Monday she could say in the words of her motto: “That they may know Thee.” From her childhood on Snell Street for ninety years she sought to meet the needs of others and share God’s love with them.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, June 26, 2023 at St. Stanislaus Church, 36 Rockland Street, Fall River. Visitation will be at 9:00 a.m. with a Mercy Prayer Service at 9:45 a.m. Interment will be in St. Patrick Cemetery, Fall River. In place of flowers, contributions may be made to the Sisters of Mercy, 15 Highland View Road, Cumberland, RI, 02864. www.sistersofmercy.org Information and condolences please visit www.galloglyfuneralhome.com
Sisters of Mercy
15 Highland View Road, Cumberland RI 02864