Sister Madonna Cellante, a member of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart who had been a religious instructor and AIDS worker and held various positions in her order, died Aug. 26 of heart failure at The Villa, the assisted-living facility that her order shares with the Sisters of Mercy in the Woodbrook section of Baltimore County.
She was 82.
Born Cathleen Cellante in Canonsburg, Pa., she later settled in East Baltimore with her family.
Sister Madonna once recounted that her neighbors were "Irish, Italian, Greek, Yugoslavs, Polish, German, Finnish and Spanish," and that her friends were "of all faiths."
She enjoyed telling the story that she "danced Polish polkas, sang at Irish sing-alongs, ate Seder dinners and celebrated Hanukkah, Christmas and both Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Easter."
Sister Madonna was a graduate of St. Michael Parochial School in East Baltimore and entered the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart in 1947. She professed her vows in 1950.
She earned a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1971 from Loyola College and a master's degree in 1976 in religious education from Seattle University.
Her first assignment in the early 1950s was working with the deaf in Detroit and as a religious instructor. In 1953, she opened a Mission Helpers convent while working in the Diocese of Raleigh, N.C.
She described her work from 1953 to 1957 as a "mobile missionary life," where she traveled throughout North Carolina offering religious instruction to small groups of Roman Catholics.
She also established the College Volunteer Program, which brought college students to the state during summers to establish and staff Bible schools.
Sister Madonna later was assigned from 1967 to 1968 to New York City's Bowery as a religious instructor before returning to Baltimore as a member of her order's leadership team.
She had been vice president and treasurer of her community and from 1989 to 1991 served as an evangelization and family life minister at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Roman Catholic Church in Tucson, Ariz.
Sister Madonna returned to Baltimore, where she was pastoral minister at Our Lady of Fatima Roman Catholic Church in Highlandtown.
For the last six years of her career before retiring in 2000, she worked with AIDS patients at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.
Sister Madonna was an avid card player who enjoyed bridge and pinochle. She liked vacationing at the seashore, reading and cooking Italian food.
A memorial Mass will be offered at 11 a.m. Thursday at The Villa, 6806 Bellona Ave.
Surviving are a brother, John Cellante of Baltimore, and several nieces.