Sister Alice Cardillo, MM

Born: February 28, 1945
Entered: September 2, 1965
Died: December 22, 2022

At 11:05pm on the evening of December 22, 2022, in our Maryknoll Sisters Nursing Home, Sister Alice Cardillo went gently home to the God she had served so faithfully for 57 years. Alice, the youngest of seven children of Joseph Cardillo and Jane (Kelly) Cardillo, was born in Sayre, PA, on February 28, 1945. Her family relocated to Rutherford, N.J. soon after, following a change in her father’s employment.

In 1963, Alice graduated from St. Mary’s High School in Rutherford, NJ, attended Caldwell College for one year, and worked another year before entering the Maryknoll Sisters on Sept. 2, 1965.

It was just before Alice entered high school that she knew she wanted to be a Maryknoll Sister.  She remembered her mother inviting Maryknoll Sister Maria Del Rey, to speak at a Catholic women’s club event. At that event, her mother bought Sr. Del Rey’s book, Her Name is Mercy, about Maryknoll Sister Mercy Hirschbach and her work as a physician in Bolivia and Korea. When Alice finished reading that book, she knew she wanted to be a Maryknoll Sister.

Alice made her First Profession of Vows in Maryknoll, NY, on June 24, 1968. She earned a B.A. in community service from Mary Rogers College. During this time of study, she met other Maryknoll sisters who had returned from Korea. Their stories inspired her and, following graduation in 1970, she was assigned to the Maryknoll Sisters Korea Region.

After a two-year language study in Seoul, Korea, Alice served 1972-1974 on a teaching team that planned and supervised student nurses from Maryknoll Nursing School in Pusan for rural and urban experiences. Returning to the United States in 1974, Alice attended Bergen Community College in Paramus, NJ for two years, receiving an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Nursing. She earned her license as a Registered Nurse in August 1976.

During her 18 years of ministry as a nurse with the Maryknoll Sisters in Korea, she was drawn to minister to those on the fringes of society, spending more than a decade in various parts of Korea serving those afflicted with Hansens Disease (also known as leprosy). By the time Alice began this ministry, successful treatment had already been in use, and had arrested the disease. There was no longer a need to fear its spread, but what persisted was the negative societal stigma. As much as she could, throughout the years of her Hansens Disease ministry, Alice tried to educate people, to change society’s view of those who, although showing some physical scars of the disease, were completely cured.

In 1978, as part of a local Maryknoll Sisters community, Alice worked for one year with patients at Korea’s National Leprosy Hospital on So-Rok Island, Korea and made her Final Profession of Vows there on December 10, 1978. An outgoing person, Alice visited patients in one-room homes or on small porches, treating their wounds, singing in their choir and other joining in other activities. Equally important to her was meeting people on a person-to-person level to mutually share values, beliefs, and friendship.

After this year on So-Rok Island, Alice continued her nursing work for another year in the outlying areas of Pusan, Korea, visiting and caring for Hansens Disease patients who lived there. In May 1980, she moved to Ko Chang, where for 8 years she lived among and ministered to residents of a farming village of people who had been treated and cured of Hansens disease, and their children. She shared life with the people in Ko Chang in what became a faithful and close-knit Catholic Christian Community. Later, in 1991, she received a Plaque of Appreciation for Ministry in a Hansens Disease Village, Catholic Mission Station, which was presented by the Bishop on the occasion of the Parish’s 50th anniversary.

In 1988, Alice returned to the United States for family ministry, caring for her father until he died one year later and caring for her mother for ten more years. During that time she also worked in the larger vicinity as a Hospice volunteer.

After the death of her mother, Alice returned to live at the Maryknoll Sisters Center (in Ossining, NY).  She served as a social services assistant for the Sisters who resided on the 4th floor of Maryknoll Sisters Home Care. Regarding her work there, Alice said that the best part of her work is what she’s received spiritually from those she has helped. “It’s like Eucharist,” she said about her work with the Sisters. “When you’re helping someone with nourishment, to me it’s like a spiritual nourishment. It’s sacred to me…they’re my older sisters. I’ve looked up to them as their younger sister. I still look up to them. They…deserve that dignity to the end. That’s sacred to me.”

During this time, Alice did a course of study in Thanatology, the scientific study of death and the practices and needs associated with it, earning a Graduate Certificate in Thanatology from The College of New Rochelle. Her internship included service in pastoral services at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx, for patients with advanced cancer. After completion of her study, she continued to volunteer there and in 2013 received a Certificate of Appreciation from Calvary Hospital.

Alice was a person naturally inclined toward outreach. She needed to relate to people as ordinary people, apart from roles or systems or perceived institutional constraints. Alice was drawn to the edges of human experience – in her personal life and in her ministry outreach to those who were vulnerable, who lived on the fringes of life, those rejected, or those perceived as “outsiders.” She had a special sensitivity for those who felt alone and those who needed safe non-judgmental space for their wounded minds, bodies, and spirits, because she also needed this.