Home Obituaries Maryknoll Sister Mary Reese, Wilmington native and longtime missionary, dies at 100

Maryknoll Sister Mary Reese, Wilmington native and longtime missionary, dies at 100

Sister Mary Reese, left, presents an award to Ursuline Academy eighth-grade student Grace Smith in 2017. Sister Mary graduated from the school in 1940. Dialog file photo

MARYKNOLL, N.Y. —Sister Mary Reese, a Wilmington native who was a Maryknoll Sister for 77 years, died Aug. 17 at the Maryknoll Sisters Center. She was 100.

Born on Dec. 8, 1922, Sister Mary was the daughter of Elizabeth and James Reese. She had three brothers, all of whom became priests, and three sisters. She was the final surviving sibling.

She was a graduate of Ursuline Academy in Wilmington and studied at the St. Francis School of Nursing, also in Wilmington. A registered nurse, she was a veteran of World War II, serving as a first lieutenant at Oahu Medical Service. She also was stationed at Tilton General Hospital in Fort Dix, N.J., and at the 147th General Hospital in Honolulu.

Sister Mary, a member of St. Ann Parish in Wilmington, entered the Maryknoll Sisters in 1946 and professed her final vows six years later. After receiving a degree in nursing education from Catholic University of America, she was assigned to remain at the Maryknoll Sisters Center to work in the infirmary caring for ill and elderly sisters. Sister Mary was one of the nurses to care for the order’s foundress, Mother Mary Joseph, after she had a stroke in 1952.

She left for Tanzania in 1953 to learn the language and work in a local hospital in the dispensary and maternity unit. From 1954-66, Sister Mary worked in Nassa and Mwanza before spending three years in Kenya. She returned to the Maryknoll Sisters Center in 1972 for congregational service at a nursing home for elderly members of the order.

Sister Mary went back to Africa in 1975, where she remained until 2010. Among her work was a project for maternal and child health care, care for AIDS patients, pastoral ministry and women’s economic projects.

Semi-retirement followed back in New York until 2012, when she retired full-time. She donated her body to science.

Sister Mary’s brothers were Father Charles Reese, an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales; Father James M. Reese; and Msgr. Thomas Reese, the longtime director of Catholic Social Service in the Diocese of Wilmington. Her sisters were Catherine R. Hall, Elizabeth Lynch and Cecilia R. Haywood. She is survived by many nieces and nephews.

A vespers service will be held Sept. 5 at 4:15 p.m. in the Chapel of the Annunciation at the Maryknoll Sisters Center in Ossining, N.Y., and a memorial Mass is scheduled for Sept. 6 at 10 a.m.

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