Sister Margaret A. McGrail, 87, a Franciscan nun, a nurse, and a health administrator who worked in hospitals in Philadelphia, Reading, Trenton, and Wilmington, and was president and chief executive officer of St. Joseph Hospital in Lancaster in the 1980s, died of cardiovascular disease Wednesday, May 2, at Assisi House in Aston, Delaware County, the retirement home for her religious order.

When Sister McGrail began her health ministry in the 1950s, Franciscan nuns went into teaching, nursing, or orphanage work, Florence Smith, director of communications for the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, said in an interview. "Back in those days, our sisters were opening hospitals and schools on both coasts."

Born Jean Agnes McGrail in Baltimore, Sister Margaret graduated from the Catholic High School of Baltimore, entered the Franciscan religious order in 1946, and from 1947 to 1951 taught at St. Joseph School, Fullerton in Baltimore.

She began her health career as a student nurse at St. Joseph's Hospital at 16th Street and Girard Avenue in North Philadelphia, where she worked from 1951 to 1954, and at the former St. Agnes Hospital in South Philadelphia from 1954 to 1955.

After receiving her nursing degree at Villanova University in 1955, she worked at St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton until 1963, earned a master's in administration in nursing education at the Catholic University of America in 1964, then returned to the Trenton center until 1967.

Sister McGrail was an administrator at St. Joseph Hospital in Reading from 1967 to 1976. Moving from hospital work, she became a leadership team member for her religious order until 1984.

After serving as the top administrator at St. Joseph Hospital in Lancaster from 1984 to 1991, she moved to St. Francis Hospital in Wilmington. At first, she was the vice president for mission and ministry there and then a volunteer until 2009.

Since then, she had been a volunteer at Assisi House and, earlier this year, a resident working in prayer ministry.

Sister McGrail is survived by a sister, Margaret Kelly; nieces and nephews.

A wake is set for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 8, at Assisi House, 600 Red Hill Rd., Aston. It will be followed by a viewing and an 11 a.m. Funeral Mass there, with burial in Our Lady of Angels Cemetery, Aston.

Contact Walter F. Naedele at 215-854-5607 or wnaedele@phillynews.com.