A private Mass of Christian Burial was held October 30 at St. Louise House Residence in Albany, New York for Sister Mary Grace O’Neil, D.C., who died Wednesday, October 28, 2020. Burial followed at St. Agnes Cemetery in Menands, New York. She was 88 years of age and 68 years of vocation as a Daughter of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.
Born in Worcester, Massachusetts on September 2, 1923, Sister Mary Grace (baptized Mary Louise) was the only child born to Edward McWilliams and Grace Virginia (Donohoe). Sister Mary Grace’s father died when she was very young, and her mother remarried James Francis O’Neil. Following graduation in 1950 from Mount St. Joseph Academy in Brighton, Massachusetts, Sister Mary Grace entered the Daughters of Charity in Emmitsburg, Maryland in December of 1951.
Upon completion of initial formation and a brief time serving as a teacher, Sister Mary Grace began her studies in nursing at St. Joseph College, Emmitsburg. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing in 1959; in 1965, Sister earned her master’s degree in Nursing Education from Siena College in Albany, New York.
Sister Mary Grace’s nursing ministry often included the care of children and babies, and for over 50 years on mission, she would serve at locations throughout the Eastern region of the United States: Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C. (1959 to 1962); St. Catherine Infant Home in Albany (1962 to 1968); St. Margaret’s Hospital in Boston (1968 to 1970); Labouré Center in Boston (1970 to 1975); St. Vincent’s Hospital in Bridgeport, Connecticut (1975 to 1986); St. Mark’s, Harlem, New York (1986 to 1988); Seminary Companion at DePaul Provincial House in Albany (1988 to 1990); Sacred Heart in Cohoes, New York (1990 to 1993); Labouré Sisters Residence in Boston (1993 to 1999); St. Peter’s House, Wilmington, Delaware (1999 to 2001); St. John’s Parish Center in Brooklyn (2001 to 2004); and DePaul House in Albany (2004 to 2008). In 2008, Sister entered the Ministry of Prayer at St. Louise House in Albany; she served there until the time of her death.
Sister Mary Grace was nationally recognized for her service in Pediatric nursing; in 1992, she was one of five persons chosen from nation-wide nominees to receive a Hero Award from the Pediatric AIDS Foundation for her work at Community Maternity Services, Ferrano House, Albany, and was featured on CBS This Morning as a “hero who stepped forward to impact the discrimination and isolation that surrounds these children.” Sister was also a gifted artist whose watercolor paintings reflected her love for children.
Sister Mary Grace is survived by her cousin Rose Marie Phillips of Harvest, Alabama; her many friends; and her Sisters in Community.