Biographies

Sister Alice McDonald, MM

Born: May 8, 1897
Entered: September 23, 1921
Died: February 1, 1982

Today in our Eucharistic Liturgy we come together to celebrate the life and death of our sister, Alice McDonald, who was known during most of her religious life as Sister Mary Charles. Sister Alice passed quietly and peacefully into unending light and life on February 1st, around noon.

Alice Mary McDonald was born in Fall River, Massachusetts on May 8th, 1897. She was the oldest child of Etta and John McDonald. After several years of grammar school education, Alice went to work at a textile factory where she eventually became a skilled carder. Alice continued this work until the age of twenty-four when she made application to the newly-founded Community of Women at Maryknoll. She entered on September 23, 1921. Although Alice did not have much formal education, she brought with her to Maryknoll a well-developed culinary expertise as well as an ability to plan and organize all aspects of her work. Our Foundress, Mother Mary Joseph, often named her as one of the Community’s best cooks.

Alice offered herself to the new mission movement quite simply by writing on her application form: “I want to serve God and I am willing to do anything.” God took her at her word and she, for her part, kept her promise. She made her first vows on April 19, 1924 and her final profession on April 19, 1927. That same year, she set out on along journey of “home making” for Maryknoll in many parts of the U.S.A. – Los Angeles, Seattle, Washington, D.C., Venard College in Pennsylvania, and Chinatown, New York, where she worked from 1946 when the mission was opened until 1967 when she retired at Bethany. These two decades spent in New York’s Chinatown were particularly meaningful and full years for her. She was a well-known and appreciated figure on Mott Street, and in the surrounding neighborhood, and made many friends, some of whom continued to keep in contact with her over the years.

Those of us who lived and worked with Sister Alice became aware of her sense of loyalty, her unpretentious manner and her ability to “roll with the punches”. The transition periods in her life did not seem to present a crisis. She simply unpacked her bag where she was sent and organized her life and work in a way that enabled her to share with others the gifts God had given her. She was relentlessly consistent and consistently herself, sensitive to the nuances of life, although not always able to express her awareness. Whenever she felt that she had been too abrupt or quick in her response to another, she would ask, “I hope you’re not mad at me now?”, which was her way of reconciliation.

We praise and thank God for the life and mission of Sister Alice McDonald and we offer our sympathy and prayers for her relatives and friends.

Celebrants of the Liturgy in the Main Chapel of The Center at 11:00 a.m., February 3, 1982: Bishop Edward A. McGurkin, M.M., and the Rev. John A. Cioppa, M.M., of the Maryknoll Fathers General Council.