Sister Grace D’Amico, SSND
December 2, 1945 – February 27, 2021
On her father’s birthday, December 2, 1945, Grace Loretta D’Amico was born at Beth Israel Hospital, in Passaic, New Jersey, and on the 16th was baptized at the family’s parish church, Our Lady of Mount Virgin, in nearby Garfield. Her brother, Joseph, was almost six years older.
Both Grace’s mother, Frances Milazzo, and her father, Michael D’Amico, were natives of New York City.
When she was four years old, the Filippini Sisters welcomed Grace into the Kindergarten of Mount Virgin School “with Mother Goose wallpaper” in the convent basement. She wrote in her autobiography that she felt this introduced her in a limited way to convent life. As an eighth grader, the Sisters drilled her for spelling bees, and so again she spent time in the convent. “At this time, I began to think of a religious vocation.” Grace paid this tribute to her first teachers:
In preparing me academically, the sisters were
to influence my eventual entrance into Notre Dame.
Due to the Filippini Sisters’ preparation, kind encour-
agement and personal influence, I was awarded a
tuition scholarship to the Academy of the Holy Angels.
At AHA Grace “lived life to the fullest. She studied, crammed, wrote an as yet unpublished book, met people, was active in extracurricular activities, worked at summer jobs, and made a subway token bet with a friend that she would never enter the convent.” But this she did, at Wilton, the September after her AHA graduation in 1963. During postulancy, she completed freshman year at the College of Notre Dame of Wilton and became the first editor of the newspaper From the Pentagon.
At Reception, August 3, 1964, she received the religious name Grace Mary. First profession followed on August 5, 1965, and Final Vows on July 19, 1970. Grace’s BA in English was from Notre Dame of Wilton in 1968. From CUNY/Brooklyn College she received an M.A. in English in 1974, and from Columbia University a M.Ed. in Psychological Counseling in 1985.
Grace spent her first 11 years on mission as a creative and enthusiastic teacher. Between 1965 and 1976, she taught grade 6 at St. Patrick School, in Glen Cove, NY; grade 7 at St. Thomas Junior High in Stonington, Connecticut; and English at St. Saviour High in Brooklyn, and the Academy of the Holy Angels, In Demarest, NJ.
A year of sabbatical at Notre Dame Hall, on the campus of St. Louis University, followed. There the St. Louis Province had a House of Studies and Spiritual Renewal, where Grace drank deeply of the spirit of Vatican II and You Are Sent in community with several St. Louis SSNDs. They were spiritual directors and committed students of the evolving theology of religious life emanating from the Council. When she returned, she became a counselor and English teacher to the young men at La Salle Academy, a ministry of the Christian Brothers in Manhattan.
For seven years she lived the precarious and hilarious life on the top floor of Holy Redeemer School at 4th Street on the Lower East Side. The community of ten didn’t mind an uncertain water supply, nightly intruders stripping classrooms downstairs while the police always arrived too late, and the infinite variety of teeming humanity on the local streets. Grace wrote some very witty songs, and the community still tells some very funny stories about their 4th Street adventures.
A new period of Grace’s life opened in 1985 when she began 20 years of fostering human development through counseling and facilitation in educational and organizational settings. First, she ministered at St. Mary High School in Jersey City, and later as college counselor at Hudson County Community College and Rockland County Community College. For five years in between these ministries, Grace served the Wilton Province as founding Director of Communications, and later spent six years as Director of Development.
Her love for SSND and the Wilton Province comes through strongly in all the outreach she did in these roles – in the newsletter she founded, Weavings; in her letters to benefactors; in the introduction of the Tree of Life to commemorate donors and inspire them to contribute to the growing needs for renovation at the Motherhouse; in reunions and luncheons with former students in various places. All were carried out with her unique wit, good humor and obvious enjoyment.
At Baltimore’s College of Notre Dame of Maryland (now Notre Dame of Maryland University) Grace served as Assistant Director of the Weekend College and also Coordinator of the Post-Masters Program. In Milwaukee she was NAMA Sponsorship Coordinator for SSND, and then offered the same service to the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers as Associate Director of Educational Services, based in New Rochelle, NY. And finally, most recently, Grace used her experience and skills as Coordinator for Board Development and Ministry Services for the Atlantic-Midwest Province.
Sister Arlene Flaherty, OP, had asked Grace to serve as secretary to the virtual JPIC Haiti Forum on January 19-21. She did this gladly. As she said, it occupied her mind while her only brother was dying and she could not visit him.
Grace came to Villa Notre Dame to recover from the COVID virus. Instead, on February 27 – and much to the shock of the community – she died at Norwalk Hospital after some days of intensive treatment. While she was on hospice care the afternoon before, her brother’s widow, Eileen, and their son and two daughters; Sister Mary Lynch, a close friend for 50 years; and Sister John Vianney Zullo, Health Care Proxy from her Crowd, participated in a Zoom call at which Provincial Leader Sister Charmaine Krohe renewed Grace’s vows with her.
On Friday March 5, the VND Community blessed Grace’s coffin with family and friends before she was buried at St. Mary Cemetery, Bethel, Connecticut.
(Written by Sister Kay O'Connell)