Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Sister Mary Dennis Donovan Sept. 5, 1915 - Jan. 20, 2014 Sister of St. Joseph since 1931

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Sister Mary Dennis Donovan Sept. 5, 1915 - Jan. 20, 2014 Sister of St. Joseph since 1931

Article excerpt

Herbert Hoover was president, Pius XI was pope and the Pirates were beating the Cardinals, 6-4, at Forbes Field behind future Hall of Famers Lloyd Waner and Pie Traynor.

It was Sept. 3, 1931, and Patricia Donovan of Aliquippa was formally entering religious life as a sister of St. Joseph of Baden, two days shy of her 16th birthday, taking the name Sister Mary Dennis.

Her vocation lasted for 83 years -- as a school teacher, principal, author, activist for racial and interfaith reconciliation, and avid political participant who proudly voted in every presidential campaign from the Roosevelt to the Obama eras. Generations before the "Nuns on the Bus," she was a national pioneer among Roman Catholic sisters in articulating how social justice is interwoven with the Christian faith.

Sister Mary Dennis Donovan died Monday at age 98 at the sisters' motherhouse. She was the fourth-longest-serving member in the order's history.

Colleagues, relatives and ex-students recalled a no-nonsense, intimidating, yet endearing, presence with boundless intellectual curiosity.

"She had such a sense of social justice, long before the rest of us had the kind of consciousness she did," said Sister Janet Mock, a fellow sister of St. Joseph and executive director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an umbrella organization for most American religious orders.

Sister Donovan co-authored a civics textbook used by Catholic high school students nationwide. "The Christian Citizen -- His Challenge," first published in 1948 and later revised, blended lessons about Christians' moral responsibility with more conventional topics about how bills become law.

The book was "laden with social responsibility, served up by my Aunt Pat," added her nephew, Tom Sweeney, who used that textbook in school.

She was born in Aliquippa, the oldest of eight children, three of whom died in childhood during a typhoid outbreak.

"I think because she grew up in a steel town and knew a lot about unions, just breathing it in the air, those values of a good working- class family were instilled in her early," Sister Mock said. …

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