Sister Mary Jerome, 72, educator and fund-raiser

September 14, 2001|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Sister Mary Jerome McGinley, who established a learning center for immigrants and others lacking basic education, died of cancer Tuesday at her order's Villa St. Michael nursing home in Emmitsburg. She was 72.

She had been a member of the Daughters of Charity Roman Catholic religious order for nearly 54 years.

A teacher and medical facilities fund-raiser, she served as director of special projects at Jenkins Memorial Home - now St. Elizabeth's Home for Nursing Care - on the grounds of what was then St. Agnes Hospital in Southwest Baltimore from 1978 to 1989.

She ran annual bazaars and for several years financially sponsored a Vietnamese family that had moved to Baltimore.

She also taught elementary subjects at St. Martin Parochial School on Fulton Avenue in West Baltimore in the 1970s, and had posts in Richmond and Lynchburg, Va., Boston, Washington and Cumberland.

"Sister Mary Jerome was well regarded by the poor," said Father Michael Roach, pastor of St. Bartholomew's Roman Catholic Church in Manchester. "They still speak kindly of her years in Baltimore. She was a true Daughter of Charity."

Her fellow sisters said that Sister Jerome, who suffered a permanent foot injury in 1972, walked with crutches or traveled on a motorized chair. They said her infirmity never interfered with her work.

In 1991, when she learned that some convent employees could not read, she founded the Marguerite Naseau Literacy Center, named after the first Daughters of Charity member, who had taught herself to read. The center, with a staff of volunteers, served immigrants and residents of Frederick County and Adams County, Pa. She also branched out to teach basic computer skills.

"It was her delicate sensitivity to the needs of people that prompted her to begin the center," said Sister Mary Elyse, the order's provincial superior. "She was a go-getter, able to find the resources. ... She'd write the grants and sit with her students and teach.

"It was a joy to see her work with the elderly who had a fear of new technology," she said.

Members of the order said her center proved a success and she soon had to enlist the services of more volunteers to assist with its burgeoning enrollment. She worked with the Frederick Literacy Council and the Emmitsburg Coalition for a Better Community.

During her 11 years as the center's director, she taught students who were learning to read and write for the first time. She prepared others for the GED exam and tutored students learning English as a second language. She also began a computer program tailored for people who had strokes or impaired mental functions.

Born Teresa McGinley in Philadelphia, she was the daughter of Irish immigrant parents. She graduated from West Philadelphia Girls Catholic High School in 1946. She earned an associate's degree in education at St. Joseph College in Emmitsburg and also attended Tufts University in Medford, Mass.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Basilica of the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg.

She is survived by a brother, John McGinley of Cape May Court House, N.J.; a sister, Sister Edith McGinley, also a Daughter of Charity, of Wilmington, Del.; and nieces and nephews.

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