Sister Mary Spellicy, SNJM

Sister James Bernard

April 28, 1933 – May 21, 2016


Sister Mary Spellicy (Sr. James Bernard), a Sister of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary for over 60 years, died on Saturday, May 21, 2016, at St. Joseph’s Provincial House in Latham, New York, after a brief illness.

Sister Mary was born on April 28, 1933, in Rome, NY, to the late Theodore and Mary Ann (Smith) Spellicy. Throughout her life, Mary was thrilled to be daddy’s little girl and the “baby sister” of her three older brothers.  Though their lives and work stretched them the length of the East Coast, Mary and her two surviving big brothers and their families, Theodore (Betty) Spellicy of Sarasota, Florida, and Andrew (Maryellen) Spellicy of Stittville, NY, always kept warm and current connections. Sr. Mary also had wonderful bonds with her brother James. One of the highlights of her life was the trip to Ireland the two made shortly before his death in 2007.  Her dear nephews Theodore Brian Spellicy and Douglas Burke also predeceased Sr. Mary. Truly, the children born into the Spellicy clan had in Mary a most interested and supportive aunt.  She treasured each of the 21 nieces and nephews, and many great nieces and nephews, who survive her.

Sr. Mary’s special rapport with seemingly every child she met characterized her more than five decades as an elementary school teacher. Leaving home right after high school in 1952, she entered the teaching community of the Sisters of the Holy Names.  After her novitiate in Outremont, Quebec, Canada, she was sent to St. Michael’s School in Silver Spring, Maryland. Thus began her remarkable professional devotion to the little ones in the primary grades. She taught in parish schools in Tampa, FL, Liverpool, NY, Delmar, NY, New Bedford, MA, and Albany, NY.  She also taught for 13 years in two assignments at the Academy of the Holy Names in Tampa.  She became known for her kindness, patience, and focus, which made her an especially effective tutor of children with reading and math “blocks.”  But her classroom effectiveness did not come easily to Sr. Mary–she herself had found school difficult and had had to struggle with bouts of anxiety. Not to be deterred, she marshaled her exceptional self-discipline and work ethic and developed the key teaching skills and dispositions that complemented her love of children–a recipe for success with hundreds of children for half a century!

Sr. Mary’s thoroughgoing commitment to service evolved over time; as a “senior citizen” she became an assistant teacher at Tampa’s St. Peter Claver Day Care Center for disabled children from low-income families. There, as at other schools, she quietly mentored younger teachers. To this work she added outreach to the homeless and preparing meals at the city’s Trinity Café and Salvation Army sites. In 2004, she became a full-time volunteer, working with the homebound elderly, the homeless, and with patient services at St. Joseph’s Hospital.  In all these settings, Sr. Mary’s accessibility, compassion, and sense of fun animated her relationships. As a person of action, Sr. Mary would probably be surprised to learn that, much more than anything she did, to her colleagues, friends, members of her religious family, and those she served,  Mary’s gift was her way of being with each one. Her best doing was her being.

In 2014, Sr. Mary made the difficult parting with her loved Tampa community, transitioning to her new home in the Albany Mission Centre. Here she came to enjoy the comaraderie, the renewing of old friendships, the beauty of the setting and seasons, and the supportive staff and systems in the CSJ care-center. She was truly happy and she passed that joy on to all she met. The Spellicy family and the Sisters of the Holy Names are grateful to the Sisters of St. Joseph__ the sisters and care-givers__for their welcoming hospitality and loving goodness to our Sr. Mary.

A celebration of Sr. Mary’s life will take place in a prayer service and time of remembrance to be held at the Provincial House of the Sisters of St. Joseph, 385 Watervliet-Shaker Rd., Latham, on Friday, May 27, 20016, at 9:30 AM, followed at 10:30 by the Liturgy of the Resurrection. Then interment will take place at Calvary Cemetery in Glenmont, NY.

In memory of Sr. Mary, donations may be made to the Sisters of the Holy Names, 606 Morris Street, Albany, NY 12208.