Sister Mary Ita O’Donnell, CSJ

We come together to celebrate the faith-filled and joyous life of Sister Mary Ita O’Donnell, a Sister of St. Joseph for 70 years. Can’t you hear the Mets cheering her home!  As she cheered so arduously for them.

Born to John and Margaret O’Donnell, Irish and Scottish immigrants, Mary and her siblings, John, Ann, and Joan grew up in Hewlett within a tight-knit, fun loving neighborhood with the activities of St. Joseph’s parish centering their lives.

After graduating from Bishop McDonnell HS, Mary entered the community seeking, in her words, “to be of loving service to God’s people” and indeed she was for 70 years.

Mary’s greatest joy was her ministry as a teacher ~ especially in all things Science.  Her enthusiasm and thirst for learning captured the minds and hearts of her students whom she taught in six elementary schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn.  In later years stories of Mary’s creativity and passion for excellence were legend.

The real joy of teaching blossomed fully as Mary became a vital part of the staff and school community at St. Joseph HS, her beloved home away from home, for 25 happy and fruitful years.

At St. Joseph’s Mary excelled in the exciting world of Science education and opened up infinite vistas to her students of a world charged with the grandeur and magnificence of God.

Accolades and countless acts of prestigious recognition ranging from the Catholic Science Teacher’s Association of New York State to the renowned Science Council of New York City spanned her career.

Mary became a Master teacher and mentor for teachers statewide while always giving her beloved students at SJHS her undivided and special attention.

Retirement was not in Mary’s vocabulary as long as she was able to be of service and share the marvels and beauty of our God- graced world through the lens of science.  So off went Mary to the Museum of Natural History to volunteer in the Butterfly Conservatory.  She also shared her time volunteering in the Education Department of the Aquarium in Coney Island.

Stories of her engagement with people on the subway and buses in NYC abound- always sharing her passion for the unfolding mystery and majesty of God in creation.

Faced with growing health challenges and after a debilitating fall in the subway, Mary’s openness and wisdom brought her to St. Joseph’s Convent in 2015, where she entered wholeheartedly into communal life.  She also earned the prestigious distinction as the Nun who never complained!

Mary’s prayerful presence at daily Eucharist, her light-hearted spirit of fun and her pleasant welcoming manner enriched the community of sisters and staff ~ especially her kind and loving aides whom she treasured.

Mary’s most notable hallmark of fame is a toss-up, a true toss-up between her seasonably decorated walker and wheelchair and her avid, over the top passion for the Mets – not to mention Jack -her mascot and faithful companion.

As a sign of Mary Ita’s life , a life well lived with compassion, a lively faith and meaningful service of God’s people as a Sister of St. Joseph for 70 years, our constitution is now placed in her hands.

May Mary bless us all as we companion each other to be a Gospel centered people on fire with our charism of love of God and our dear neighbor and advocates for our beloved Earth community.

I also know it’s fitting for Jack to accompany Mary on her journey home.

Sister Mary Ita O’Donnell, CSJ died on May 6, 2022 in the 70th year of her religious life.

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