Thursday, October 12, 2023
Mass of the Resurrection, 10:30 a.m.
Church of Our Lady of Loretto
Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana
Visitors are welcome.
Sister Mary Ada, CSC
(Theresa Agnes Dennis)
October 24, 1929—October 4, 2023
We share news of the death of Sister Mary Ada (Theresa Agnes Dennis) CSC, who died at 12:18 p.m. on October 4, 2023, in Saint Mary’s Convent, Notre Dame, Indiana. Sister Mary Ada entered the Congregation from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on January 23, 1948. Her initial profession of vows took place on August 15, 1950.
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.
Sister Mary Ada (Dennis) died in Saint Mary’s Convent, Notre Dame, on October 4, 2023, just 20 days before her 94th birthday. Her date of birth was also the anniversary of the stock market collapse of October 24, 1929, one of the darkest days in the history of the United States, the beginning of the worldwide Great Depression. However, it was joyous time for one family in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. On that day, Theresa Agnes Dennis, the future Sister Mary Ada, was born to Isadore and Agnes (Dochat) Dennis. The infant had five older siblings—Bernadine, Lorraine, Richard, James, and Henry, her half-brother. The family experienced severe poverty due to the depression, but Theresa’s parents never turned away a person in need of a meal. Agnes and Isadore taught by example, and their lessons of kindness, were ingrained in Theresa for the rest of her life.
Theresa had felt a religious vocation within her since she was in the second grade at Saint Joseph School in Lancaster. This was evident to those who knew her, as she was described as a devout girl who was intelligent and honest. Her love of God and vivacious personality allowed her to flourish at Lancaster Catholic High School, where she became a Catholic Action representative and was elected class president during her junior year. Theresa was taught by four different religious congregations of women, feeling drawn to one in particular—Sisters of the Holy Cross. After graduating high school in 1947, Theresa worked as a secretary for less than a year before answering the call within her. She entered the Sisters of the Holy Cross, Notre Dame, Indiana, on January 23, 1948. Later that year, she received the religious name of Sister Mary Ada upon reception of the holy habit on August 15, 1948.
From 1950 to 1975, Sister Mary Ada was an elementary school teacher. She taught at many parochial schools in states across the eastern coast of the United States, including Washington, D.C., New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland. In 1966, she earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Dunbarton College of Holy Cross, Washington, D.C.
Sister Mary Ada always wanted to form a sincere rapport with her students. She occasionally joined them on the playground and planned after-school crafts for them. After being taught about leatherwork, she implemented crafting with leather into her classes and it became a favorite activity. The students looked forward to rainy days when Sister Mary Ada would bring out the leather for them to make gifts.
Later in Sister Mary Ada’s life, she was assigned to begin a ministry of social work at Kimberly Quality Care Nursing Services in Lancaster. From 1986 to 2001, she assisted the elderly with tasks they were not able to do themselves, such as laundry and grocery shopping. Sister Mary Ada consistently went out of her way to make sure needs were met, down to the minor details. New clients would specifically request her, as many of them heard about her helpful and supportive nature through word of mouth. She truly loved helping her clients with whatever they needed.
Sister Mary Ada’s endless empathy and compassion came easily to her. After retiring in 2001 to Saint Angela Hall, Kensington, Maryland, she ardently prayed for the needs of the community and the world. She transitioned in 2005 to Saint Mary’s Convent, Notre Dame, Indiana, and began to volunteer within the community. Along with a ministry of prayer and presence, she assisted sisters by passing out mail, guided those in wheelchairs to Mass, and drove sisters to the store.
Sister Mary Ada learned from her 75 years in community that everyone should be able to be their true selves, rather than what another “thinks one ought to be.” Throughout her life she did her best to pattern her life after Jesus Christ and Mary, Mother of God. As a professed Sister of the Holy Cross, Sister Mary Ada spent her life spreading kindness and compassion in the name of God.
Services for Sister Mary will be held on Thursday, October 12, 2023, in the Church of Our Lady of Loretto. Visitation begins at 9:30 a.m., with Prayers in the Presence of the Body with memento beginning at 10:30 a.m., followed by the Mass of the Resurrection.
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 Archives and Records