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Sister Donna (Laurence Therese) O’Neill

Sister Donna O'Neill

“[Jesus Christ] went about doing good works and healing all who were in the grip of the devil. …” (Acts 10:38)

“It is appropriate that Sister Donna O’Neill should die in the Easter season, for she was one who served Jesus the Christ by imitating him in her ministry as a Sister of Providence. Sister Donna went about doing good all of her religious life. This is the Sister Donna O’Neill we know,” said Sister Luke Crawford in her commentary for Sister Donna O’Neill, who died April 22.

Born Donna Joan O’Neill on May 11, 1930, in Chicago, she was the daughter of Thomas and Gladys (Dilley) O’Neill. She was one of three children. She attended Our Lady of Mercy Grade School and Providence High School, both in Chicago. Sister Donna entered the Congregation July 22, 1948, and received the religious name Sister Laurence Therese. She professed first and perpetual vows Jan. 23, 1951, and 1956, respectively. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a master’s degree in education from Marygrove College, Detroit.

For more than 40 years, Sister Donna ministered in education. She began teaching second grade in 1951 at St. John, Robstown, Texas. In Indianapolis, she taught at St. Joseph and St. Joan of Arc. She spent two years at St. Therese, Wilson, N.C. Sister Donna spent most of her pedagogical years in Illinois at St. Sylvester, Our Lady of Mercy, St. Andrew, St. Mark and Immaculate Conception, Chicago; St. Alexander, Palos Heights; and St. Joseph, Downers Grove.

“In her final ministry, one which endeared her to sisters here at the Woods, Sister Donna was administrator of Providence Hall. Known as a gracious, generous person, Sister Donna served well our retired sisters here at the motherhouse for seven years. Many of those same sisters, now in their 80s and 90s, recount the kindness, thoughtfulness and graciousness of Sister Donna from 1994 through 2001,” said Sister Luke.

“These statistics do not tell the full story of Sister Donna. A person of concern for others, generous in helping in any way she could, she never counted hours or shut her office door. Sister Donna was there.

“Even as a novice when we put on skits to entertain ourselves, Sister Donna never wanted to hurt anyone. She herself was sensitive, so she was perceptive about others. She retained this as a teacher in elementary schools throughout her career. She loved her students, and they in turn respected her highly,” continued Sister Luke.

“When her parents became ill, Sister Donna went home to help care for them until they each went home to God. Long hours of service to them did not count when going to serve in their home after a long day at school. Yes, it took its toll on Sister Donna, but with some help from her band member and friend, Sister Joan Mary Schaefer, Sister Donna recovered from the excessive fatigue.

“Diffident about her own talents and achievements, Sister Donna now may be saying to me, ‘Sister Luke, don’t get carried away; just say I slept well,’” shared Sister Luke.

“Sister Donna was a cut above most; her generosity would be hard to match. Her consistent charity and kindness toward all were hallmarks we witnessed, just as scripture records in the Acts of the Apostles the people of Jesus’ time witnessing him going around doing good,” concluded Sister Luke.

The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Donna was celebrated April 27, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She was preceded in death by both of her siblings.

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