Sister Saint Christopher Donnelly, CSJ
Born Dorothea Teresa to Angela and Christopher Donnelly, Chris always gave due praise to her Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn roots, and the values and virtues nurtured by her family’s deep faith and their active life in Resurrection Parish. The bonds of familial love between Chris and her siblings Betty, Ann, Alice, Bob and Joe took root and deepened, always nourished by a shared faith, loyalty, pride in their Irish heritage and an abundance of good times and hearty laughs.
After attending the Juniorate, Chris entered the Community and started on her extensive and illustrious ministerial service to the people of God. For 25 years her energies were devoted to the education and faith formation of elementary-age children across the Diocese of Brooklyn.
Recognizing the lack of professional services for students who were mentally challenged and/or developmentally delayed, Chris went on to earn an MA in Special Education from Brooklyn College. Utilizing her experience and knowledge she joined with a broad spectrum of advocates to provide educational and life opportunities that ranged from residential hostels to Catholic School Programs to day treatment centers ~ and to founding the Mid Hudson Valley Camp in Esopus, NY for deaf children and children with special needs. Brother David who is here today wanted it said that the establishment of this camp led to the transformation of the Marist Center for Spirituality ~ leading to outreach to young people ~ a ministry that is vibrant today thanks to Chris’ spirit. Brother David’s side-kick, Brother Tom Barton said quite definitely that “Chris showed him the ropes and life was never the same.
When Chris went south to Florida in the mid 80’s she offered her expertise to
design specialized programs for Seniors with a particular focus on the poor and marginalized.
Always attuned to the workings of God’s spirit unfolding in her life, Chris returned to New York in 1986 to join the core community founding My Mother’s House to care for children of incarcerated Mothers.
In her spare time Chris served as a Chaplain at Rikers Island and later joined the service team at the New York Childhood Center. Her energy was boundless and her openness and flexibility astounding as she witnessed in her unique way to the profound love of God in the dear neighbor.
Due to failing health Chris returned to the Florida sunshine and became an active and spiritual catalyst within her Senior Citizen community. Her classic sense of humor and wholistic and holy understanding of human nature endeared her to all.
Chris’ Florida address said it all ~ She lived on ‘Top of the World’! with a perspective on life that all was gift and each person was the face of God who deserved her utmost attention. She lived in the sacrament of the present moment.
There was always time in Chris’ life for renewal and prayerful retreat experiences that refueled and graced her days. She and God walked as one dividing the city and serving those in need.
Coming back to Brentwood this past January brought Chris a deep peace ~ she was home ~ and her life of service was her gift to our world and our CSJ community.
Sister Saint Christopher Donnelly, CSJ died on April 18, 2023 in the 80th year of her religious life.