Sister Mary Anne McDonagh, 73, a caregiver who founded a food pantry in Cape May County, died Monday, Feb. 27, of cancer at the Provincialate of the Sisters of the Holy Redeemer in Huntingdon Valley.
The nuns operate Holy Redeemer Health System, providing health care and social services in four counties in Southeastern Pennsylvania and 11 counties in New Jersey.
In 1982, Sister Mary Anne, a licensed practical nurse, helped open Holy Redeemer Home Care in Swainton, N.J. On her visits to the sick, she realized that many families and seniors were living on limited incomes and lacked adequate nutrition, and she began sharing food from her convent kitchen with her clients, said Sister Anne Marie Haas, provincial superior of the Sisters of the Holy Redeemer.
For three years in the late 1980s, Sister Mary Anne was on the staff of the Villa of Divine Providence, a nursing home in Lansdale.
When she returned to Swainton in 1989, she established a food pantry, collecting and distributing food donations with the assistance of volunteers.
Since 1995, the Holy Redeemer Jersey Shore Food Pantry has been a certified member of the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, providing nonperishable food items to more than 700 sick, elderly, and impoverished individuals in the Cape May County area.
For the last three years, Sister Mary Anne, who battled ovarian cancer for 14 years, ministered to residents of Holy Redeemer Lafayette, a nursing home in Northeast Philadelphia. She was also on the staff of the Holy Redeemer Thrift Store in Hatboro.
Sister Mary Anne grew up as Nancy McDonagh in County Mayo, Ireland. At 17, she joined family members in Philadelphia. While working at the St. Francis de Sales rectory in West Philadelphia, she befriended members of the Sisters of the Holy Redeemer, who lived in the convent across the street. In 1958, she entered the Sisters of the Holy Redeemer convent in Huntingdon Valley.
She often marveled at God's humor in calling her, a young Irish lass, to join an order that was composed mostly of German sisters, Sister Haas said.
After receiving her training as a licensed practical nurse at St. Mary's Hospital in Philadelphia, Sister Mary Anne visited homebound people in North Philadelphia; ministered at St. Joseph Manor, a retirement residence in Meadowbrook, and at Holy Redeemer Hospital in Meadowbrook; and was novice director for her order for several years before moving to New Jersey.
In autobiographical notes, she wrote: "I am happy and content to be serving the Lord. I know that He walks with me, and there is a deep sense of gratitude still in my heart to be His companion on the journey."
Sister Mary Anne is survived by sisters Mary Theresa Morrissey, Kathleen Steadman, and Josephine Dempsey; a brother, Thomas; and nieces and nephews.
A Funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. Friday, March 2, at the Provincialate Chapel, 521 Moredon Rd., Huntingdon Valley, Pa. 19006. Friends may call from 8 a.m. Burial will be in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Cheltenham.
Donations may be made to Holy Redeemer Jersey Shore Food Pantry at the above address.