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Benedictine Sister Mary Joseph Dougherty, Wilmington native and longtime educator, dies at 92

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NEWARK — Sister Mary Joseph Dougherty, a Wilmington native who was a member of the Benedictine Sisters of Ridgely, Md., for 74 years, died April 2. She celebrated her 92nd birthday on March 17.

Born Helen Dougherty, Sister Mary Joseph spent 49 years as an educator at St. Elizabeth Elementary and High schools in Wilmington. According to St. Elizabeth School, she was at the high school from 1963-97. She started as a Spanish and typing teacher and later added geography, and she was a guidance counselor. Later in her tenure at the school, she focused on business education.

“Many alumni will remember Sister Mary Joseph as moderator of The Magnificat yearbook, an avid Vikings sports fan, and a spirited supporter of all extracurricular activities and parish events,” said Kevin Scott, a longtime employee of the school who is its unofficial historian. “Sister’s enthusiasm for the St. Elizabeth community was contagious. Her teaching style blended intensity with warmth and compassion.”

Benedictine Sister Mary Joseph Dougherty (left) with Sister Colleen Quinlivan. (Photo courtesy of St. Elizabeth School)

Scott said Sister Mary Joseph appointed him co-editor of the 1971 yearbook, and as his typing teacher, she always “made me feel like I was doing well while she encouraged me to work harder to be even better. She was a great source of encouragement.”

She also spent a brief time at Our Lady of Fatima School in New Castle.

According to the Benedictines’ website, Sister Mary Joseph lived in Wilmington after she retired and traveled to Ridgely several days a week to provide secretarial services and to drive sisters to appointments. She did this for six years.

“She is often seen at the computer doing labels or typing materials for the prioress or others and is often willing to help out in the kitchen and dining room,” the website reads.

She also was known as a gifted scarf-maker and craftsperson. She was generous in distributing her scarves, afghans or palm crosses. In her spare time, Sister Mary Joseph was a sports fan who enjoyed watching the Phillies, Notre Dame and any St. Elizabeth Vikings game.

Sister Mary Joseph is survived by her sisters, Nancy and Pat, and brothers, Tom and Gerry. She was preceded in death by her parents, Marie and James, sisters Dorothy and Marie, and brothers James and Paul.

Funeral services will be private because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Burial will be in St. Gertrude Cemetery, Ridgely. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Benedictine Sisters, 25 Gender Road, Newark, DE 19713.