In Loving Memory…

Sister M. Leonora (Donnelly), CSC; main image 1

Sister M. Leonora (Donnelly), CSC

Funeral Arrangements

Thursday, December 1, 2022 

Mass of the Resurrection, 10:30 a.m.
Church of Our Lady of Loretto
Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana 

Visitors are welcome; please adhere to mask and social distance guidelines while in the church.

You may view the livestreamed Mass on YouTube. 

Sister M. Leonora, CSC
(Elizabeth Ann Donnelly) 

August 4, 1927–November 20, 2022 

We share news of the death of Sister M. Leonora (Donnelly), CSC, who died at 4:11 p.m. on November 20, 2022, in Saint Mary’s Convent, Notre Dame, Indiana. Sister Leonora entered the Congregation from Mineola, Long Island, New York, on July 6, 1946. Her initial profession of vows took place on February 2, 1949.

Please join us in prayer for Sister as we renew our faith in the resurrected Jesus and strengthen our hope that all the departed will be raised to eternal life.

Elizabeth Ann Donnelly was born on August 4, 1927, in the hamlet of Baldwin, on Long Island, New York. She was the third of Anthony and Eleanor (Mack) Donnelly’s six children and was affectionately called Betty by her family. Her parents deeply loved and cherished Betty and her siblings—Edward, Margaret, Anthony, Dorothy and Thomas. Growing up with a loving family, Betty was a joyful child who treasured happiness. As a girl, she assumed everyone had “a heart bursting with joy or a family full of love.” When Betty learned otherwise, she believed that her mission was to help people find similar happiness.

When Betty was in the seventh grade, the Donnelly family moved from Long Island, New York, to Manhattan. She attended St. Paul the Apostle School and was taught by Sisters of the Holy Cross. The sisters inspired Betty. She thought they “had to be the happiest people in New York City” and wished to share that life. Her predilection for the things of the religious life and “well-balanced piety” assisted her in discerning her vocation to become a Holy Cross sister. Following her graduation from Cathedral High School, she entered the Sisters of the Holy Cross, Notre Dame, Indiana, on June 6, 1946. Upon reception of the holy habit, she received her religious name, Sister M. Leonora. She was named after her mother, as Leonora is a variation of Eleanor.

Throughout the first 23 years of Sister Leonora’s ministry, she was an elementary school teacher in Virginia, Washington, D.C., New York and Maryland. In 1963, Sister Leonora graduated from Dunbarton College of Holy Cross, Washington, D.C., with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Her inviting and loving spirit encouraged her students to be attentive in class and strive to do their best.

Sister Leonora’s teaching ministry took her abroad in 1964 to Bangladesh, where she taught hundreds of children at Holy Cross schools for 28 years. Sister Frances B. O’Connor, CSC, attests that “Leonora was a marvelous primary school teacher. Children were drawn to her as she was to them.” She furthered her own education while she was missioned in Bangladesh, as she earned her master’s in education from the University of Dhaka in 1969. Her ministry in the country was not limited to teaching, as she frequently went to countryside villages to help those in need after monsoons.

The most fulfilling part of her ministry in Bangladesh, however, was helping find new homes for babies who were orphaned, either by the loss of one or both parents. Other children were abandoned due to dire poverty or a natural catastrophe. Sister Leonora brought many young children and babies from Bangladesh to new families in France, England, Germany, the United States and elsewhere. She adored helping children find families that would give them a childhood surrounded by love and happiness, and she kept in contact with them over the years. Sister took particular pride in learning of their growth into adulthood and their achievements such as college graduations, careers, marriages, and the raising of their own families. Sister Leonora often referred to herself as a surrogate grandmother.

After returning from Bangladesh in 1992, Sister Leonora moved from teaching to a new ministry. Following her completion of a clinical pastoral program, she was missioned to Wynhoven Health Care Center in Marrero, Louisiana, where she provided clinical pastoral services to residents and employees until 1997. This ministry continued with her role as chaplain for Our Lady of Holy Cross Care Center in San Pierre, Indiana, and then for Saint Joseph’s Care Center in South Bend, Indiana. As chaplain, she visited residents and their families to provide counsel and support. In 2005, she transitioned to a ministry of prayer and presence, retiring to the motherhouse at Saint Mary’s. There, she contributed to community life in a variety of daily duties, such as helping with the Stamp Ministry, a project collecting and selling canceled stamps as a way to raise funds for Holy Cross missions beyond the United States.

Sister Leonora had several health challenges over the last few years, culminating in a recent hospitalization. When Sister Leonora died late afternoon at Saint Mary’s Convent on November 20, 2022, she was under hospice care. It was the Feast of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the liturgical year. Sister Leonora had been a consecrated religious for 73 years as a Sister of the Holy Cross. At age 95, the self-described “grandmother” of countless children now finds eternal refuge and happiness herself. She trusted in God, who leaves no one orphaned. (John 14:18)

We invite you to donate to the Ministry With the Poor Fund in Sister’s name.

 —Written by Madisen Toth, Archivist
Sisters of the Holy Cross, Congregational Archives and Records