Maureen Delaney, SNJM

Sister Maureen Delaney grew up in Alameda, CA and attended Holy Names High School in Oakland. She entered the convent from Holy Names High School in 1961. As a missionary novice, she went out to St. Augustine’s School in Oakland and enjoyed teaching the second grade. She later taught primary grades at Our Lady of Lourdes, Old Saint Mary’s and St. Francis de Sales schools all in Oakland, CA.

After teaching elementary school for several years, she became interested in community organizing. Fathers John Bauman and Jerry Helfrich came to talk to St. Mary’s school staff and parish leaders about a community organizing project they were starting in East Oakland around Saint Elizabeth’s Parish. At the end of the talk, Fr. John Baumann asked if anyone was interested in learning more about community organizing and all it entailed. Here’s where S. Maureen said, “Count me in!”

She participated in the first 7-week Summer Institute that Frs. John and Jerry held and every summer institute for the next 10 years. There she learned how to work with the community to develop leadership among the people, to have local men and women name issues that would improve their neighborhoods, and to work behind the scenes in a supportive role so that people directly affected could speak up for themselves. She learned how to build people power and to form a strong community organization.

At this time, Maureen was assigned to St. Francis de Sales School to teach third grade. The pastor and parish council decided to hire a Community Organizer to work in the neighborhoods around St. Francis. In conversation with Sr. Elizabeth Davis, her community leadership member in the California province, Sister Maureen applied for the job and was hired.

In March, 1975, Father Don Osuna was appointed rector of St. Francis de Sales Cathedral. She was privileged to be part of the very supportive and innovative staff of priests, Sisters, and lay people during the “Osuna years” at the Cathedral. Maureen learned the importance of ritual, lay leadership and community building, which would lead to outreach in the neighborhoods in Oakland.

“This experience at the cathedral as well as my organizing experience, gave me the necessary credentials, skills and background to be part of the ministry in Tutwiler, Mississippi,” commented Maureen.

Sister Maureen was a delegate from California to the 1986 General Chapter in Canada. There she met SNJM Sisters from the New York Province who told her about Anne Brooks, a Doctor and Holy Names Sister who was ministering in Mississippi. Sister Anne was looking for someone to start the outreach part of the Tutwiler Clinic. At this point, Sister Maureen had been at St. Francis for 11 years and thought it was a good time to move on. During a 10 day visit to Mississippi in 1987, Sister Maureen found the people to be friendly, welcoming, and she became very aware of the many needs in the area.

When Maureen returned to the Mississippi Delta she started out by talking to people to find out what they wanted to have happen. She used her transition skills as a Community Organizer and as a staff person at St. Francis de Sales, to teach people to speak up for themselves, build community, and use their own rituals from the African-American culture of the Mississippi Delta.

Sister Maureen has now been in Tutwiler, MS for 27 years. In her words she says, “It has been a privilege to work for and with the people of the Mississippi Delta area to help bring educational, recreational and enriching activities into the lives of children, teens and adults.”

“My only brother, Bill is a Precious Blood Priest who ministers in a parish in South Central Los Angeles, CA, and my only sister Rosemary is a Holy Names Sister who is a co-director of the Next Step Learning Center in Oakland, CA.  We are family with lots of great cousins and good friends!”