Sister Winifred O'Donnell, MM

Born: October 26, 1920
Entered: June 10, 1938
Died: April 15, 2009

Easter Week was an appropriate time for Sister Winifred O’Donnell to enter into her eternal rest. She lived fully the Paschal Mystery of dying and rising with Christ during her active missionary life and during her later years of diminishment and illness. Sister Winifred died peacefully at Maryknoll Residential Care IV on April 15, 2009. She was 88 years old and had been a Maryknoll Sister for 70 years.

Winifred Katherine O’Donnell was born on October 25, 1920, in Pilot Grove, Missouri, to Caroline (Zahringer) and Thomas E. O’Donnell. She was an only child. Sister Winifred attended St. Teresa’s Academy in Kansas City, Missouri, graduating in 1938. She entered Maryknoll on June 10, 1938, from St. Patrick’s Parish in Sedalia, Missouri. She received the religious name of Sister Grace Dolores. She made her First Profession of Vows on January 6, 1941, and her Final Profession on the same date in 1944 at Maryknoll, New York. Sister Winifred studied at Maryknoll Teachers College receiving a Bachelor of Education degree in 1944. She later received a Master of Science in Education, specializing in the teaching of reading, from Chicago State University in 1976.

Her first assignment was to Hawaii where, from 1944 to 1962, she taught different grades at the Maryknoll School in Punahou, St. Ann’s in Kaneohe, where she served as Principal and Superior from 1953-1959, and then at St. Michael’s in Waialua and St. Anthony’s in Kalihi. In 1962 Sister Winifred was assigned to St. Therese School in Chicago’s Chinatown for three years.

Fulfilling her wish to go to the Far East, Sister Winifred went to Japan in 1967. After studying the language for two years, she taught English and Western-style cooking at the Sisters’ Center House in Kyoto for two years. However, she was asked to return to St. Therese School in Chicago in 1970 as principal and as a teacher. In 1973, while studying at Chicago State University to complete her thesis for her Masters of Science in Education she also served as House and Area Coordinator.

She returned to Japan in 1976 where she taught elementary grades at an International School in Kobe for three years. There she assisted the religious congregation, which operated the school, to phase out that work. She worked in Kobe for eight more years in adult education and as Regional Bookkeeper until 1987. Sister Winifred loved cats and during her years in Kobe, and later in Kyoto, one of her pleasures was feeding and taking care of the house cat and those in the neighborhood parks.

Sister Winifred temporarily transferred to the Hong Kong Region while teaching in Mainland China from 1987 to 1991. She taught in Hunan University in Changsha, Guangdong Teachers College, and Guangdong College of Education in Guangdong, and Xidian University in Xian, Shannxi Province. She said about her students there, “I was most moved by their strength of character in the face of hardships and their deep appreciation of those who taught them.” After her time in China, Sister Winifred returned to Kyoto, Japan, for another two years.

After giving service in the Development Department at the Center as a staff writer from 1993 to 1995, Sister Winifred began a new mission in a different part of the world, Albania, in the Balkans, where Sister joined two other Maryknoll Sisters in a ministry of presence in support of a country struggling to rebuild itself after the fall of Communism. One of the qualifications she gave for going was her “love of teaching and ability to work with people.” She was involved in parish work and teaching English to women in Korce. After only one year there, she returned to Kyoto for another six years where she continued teaching adult education classes.

In her quiet way, Sister Winifred loved to prepare artistically arranged meals for the Community, especially on holidays. She had a great love of nature and one could often find her taking long walks in the parks in Kyoto during the lovely cherry blossom season in the spring and the colorful autumn leaves season in the fall. She enjoyed working on her extensive stamp collection which she liked to share with the Sisters and her students. She used to give extra stamps to her students in China who also enjoyed this hobby.

Sister Winifred returned to the Maryknoll Center in 2002 to retire. At this time she chose Japan as her prayer ministry. Due to failing health she moved to the Maryknoll Residential Care community in 2004 where she resided until her death.

We offer our condolences to Sister Winifred’s family.

We welcome and are grateful to our Maryknoll brother, Father Raymond Sullivan, who will preside at this Liturgy of Christian Burial.