Biographies

Sister M. Olivia O'Donnell, MM

Born: April 15, 1890
Entered: May 24, 1926
Died: August 22, 1970

During the past two years Sister Mary Olivia has been close to death several times, but on each occasion she recovered promptly to the amazement of her doctor who declared that she was a “miracle woman.” However, on August 20, she had an accident, and found herself on the way to Phelps Memorial Hospital. Two days later, at 2:00 p.m. on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Sister died. On former occasions Sister had asked bluntly if her time had come, but this time she did not ask if she were dying, she knew the answer when she realized that we were saying the prayers for the dying, the Salve and renewal of Vows.

Sister Mary Olivia (Mary Berchmans O’Donnell) was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, on April 15, 1890. A true Bostonian, she was educated in the public schools of Boston, and after graduation from high school entered nurses’ training at Cambridge Hospital, and later, teacher training at Hyannis Normal School. With this background, Mary gave valuable service to the School Department of Boston as a district nurse for more than nine years, and also as a teacher.

Sister Mary Olivia entered Maryknoll May 24, 1926, and was professed October 28, 1928. Her assignments took her to the Venard, Bethany, Catholic University, Monrovia and Maui Children’s Home in Hawaii. In 1937 Sister returned to the Motherhouse, and began her work with personnel in The Field Afar office, where her apostolate with the lay employees flourished. Sister’s deep interest and personal concern for everyone she met won the confidence of those who looked to her for advice. This she gave willingly and forthrightly. Sister had a phenomenal memory of the people whose lives she influenced, and somehow, keeping in touch with them, she knew their joys and sorrows and supported them always with prayers and good advice.

In 1957 Sister left the work at The Field Afar to live and work at Bethany. Throughout her religious life there were recurring serious health problems, which made her more and more dependent upon nursing care. As a nurse-patient she sensed the anxieties and problems of those who were entrusted with the care of Sisters who are seriously ill, and in her inimitable, outspoken way, gave practical advice and encouragement which lightened the burden of the work, and proved to be the “saving sense of humor,” which endeared her to all.

The Mass of the Resurrection will be held at the Motherhouse on Tuesday, August 25. Let us remember Sister’s precious soul in the Eucharistic sacrifice and in our faithful prayers for our departed Sisters.