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Sister Mary Carmel Molloy, teacher, missionary, and spiritual leader, dies at 81

She served directly with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's Sisters of St. Francis as a member of its congregational council, and a volunteer for fund-raising efforts.

Sister Carmel (right) stands with Sister Mary Griffin in 2012 as they celebrate 50 years of faith. They both professed their vows in 1962 and came to the United States from Ireland.
Sister Carmel (right) stands with Sister Mary Griffin in 2012 as they celebrate 50 years of faith. They both professed their vows in 1962 and came to the United States from Ireland.Read moreSisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia

Sister Mary Carmel Molloy, 81, of Aston, a longtime member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, a teacher, missionary, and congregational leader, died Monday, Oct. 11, of a stroke at Assisi House retirement convent.

Born in Galway, Ireland, and inspired to serve by Franciscan priests she encountered as a young girl, Sister Carmel expressed devotion to her religious faith on many assignments around the world. While with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, she served as a Sisters of St. Francis congregational council member from 1994-2002, and volunteered at the Sisters of St. Francis Foundation in Aston from 2013-2021.

She also spent time at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Doylestown.

“She took our role of itinerancy seriously,” said Sister Esther Anderson, Sister Carmel’s friend and colleague. “She had a strong sense of going to people, going to where she was needed. And she made an impact wherever she went.”

Sister Carmel entered the Sisters of St. Francis congregation in 1959, and professed her vows in 1962. Drawn to education and social service, she earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Marylhurst University, a master’s degree in secondary education administration from Portland State University, and a master’s degree in theological studies from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.

She went on to teach elementary and high school students, and work as a principal and assistant principal in Oregon, Washington, and California. Later, she returned to Galway as a tutor. Because she was a lifelong learner, Sister Esther said, Sister Carmel knew how to connect with students of all ages.

“She had a sense of humor, and was loved by her students for her quick wit,” Sister Esther said. “She accepted each person for who they were, and they saw that.”

In a tribute on Facebook, a woman wrote, “I will so miss Carmel’s dry humor, spunk, and the way she’d smirk at me when she thought I was ‘bad’ but also thought it was funny! She was a definite soul sister of mine, and I will greatly miss her!”

Sister Carmel spent five years as a missionary in Antigua, working with those in prison, the hospital, and other places. She traveled to Africa with a congregational leadership team, counseled troubled women and children at a homeless shelter in Maryland, and fed the hungry at a soup kitchen in New York.

Wherever there was need, Sister Carmel showed up.

At St. Martin’s House in Maryland, which provides transitional housing for single women and their children, Sister Carmel made such an impact on one little boy that he told her he wanted to marry her when he grew up.

“She related to people with respect and care, and made sure they knew it was mutual,” Sister Esther said. “She showed them how, as she was giving to them, she was also receiving from them.”

Sister Carmel liked to read, travel, walk in nature, and study the Celtic culture. She especially liked to shop, often spending hours meandering through the aisles and among the racks at big stores and little shops. But she rarely bought anything.

“I think she just liked to experience the colors, and the fabrics, and being out among people,” Sister Esther said. “She never felt the need to buy anything for herself.”

Sister Carmel is survived by two brothers, and other relatives.

A service was held Oct. 19. Interment was at Our Lady of Angels Cemetery in Aston.

Donations in her name may be made to the Sisters of St. Francis Foundation, 609 S. Convent Rd., Aston, Pa. 19014.