Nancy Conley, RSM, 89 (formerly Sister Robertine), a Sister of Mercy for 71 years, died peacefully on Monday morning, March 6, 2023 at Mount St Rita Health Centre, Cumberland, RI. Nancy was the daughter of the late Robert and Hazel (Murphy) Conley. Nancy was predeceased by her siblings. She is survived by her nephew Henry and his wife Debra Conley of Warren, Rhode Island and nieces Michaela Balasco and Erin Conley, and nephews James, Bryan, Patrick, and David Conley.
Nancy grew up in Warren, Rhode Island and attended St. Mary Academy Bay View from first grade graduating in 1951. She entered the Sisters of Mercy Novitiate in Cumberland and earned a degree in Special Education. She taught first grade in Pawtucket but was called to work at St. Maurice School in Maryland when the Sisters of Mercy of the Union opened the school for students with special needs. Nancy served at St. Maurice for ten years.
Upon her return to Rhode Island she taught at St. Patrick, Providence. She joined with two other Mercy Sisters, three Sisters of LaSalette, and Mary Pendergast a laywoman (now a Sister of Mercy) to establish an experimental community in Cumberland. The members did different ministries but found support through prayer, discussions with a Jesuit priest who served as a mentor, and establishing house meetings that involved everyone in the decisions for the community. During this time Nancy was hired by the Attleboro Public Schools for Special Education.
In 1980 Nancy was asked by the leadership of the Union to return to Washington to help with the closing of the Administrative Offices and St. Maurice School. The return would lead to thirty years of work among those in need in the Washington D.C. area. During this time Nancy worked with religious from different communities, various church groups, and non-profits trying to meet the needs of people on the Washington streets. She was involved in the founding of Hannah’s House a home for women and children. She was part of the Capital Hill Neighborhood Ministries that provided living, clothing, food, health care for men, women, and children in Washington who needed help. As a daughter of Catherine McAuley, Nancy not only met the physical needs of people but she tried to change the conditions that caused their situation. She was active in protests, sit-ins, lobbying public officials and encouraging people to appeal to legislators for change.
She returned to Rhode Island as she experienced a loss of her sight. Her friends Sisters Ann Welch and Virginia Burke who had supported her throughout her time in Washington introduced her again to the community in Providence and she joined various groups. She participated in demonstrations, volunteered at McAuley House and celebrated the alternative liturgy among other things. As she contemplated the future she said: “Something new will emerge; we don’t know what it will be, but there will always be a need for Mercy in the world.”
Nancy’s motto was: To know Christ. In her final weeks she spoke of being ready to meet Christ. Her life had been a journey of knowing God in her heart, in relationship with others in her life and in service to Christ in the needy. Her commitment reached beyond just the human response to a concern for the environment. On Wednesday, March 8, 2023 she had a natural burial at Swan Point Cemetery in Providence. She desired to preserve the earth from any contamination.
Her family, Mercy Family, and friends will celebrate her life on Saturday, March 11, 2023 at 1:00 p.m. in the chapel at St. Mary Academy-Bay View, 3070 Pawtucket Ave., East Providence. In place of flowers, contributions may be made to the Sisters of Mercy, 15 Highland View Road, Cumberland, RI, 02864. www.sistersofmercy.org. Information and condolences, please visit: www.galloglyfuneralhome.com
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Sisters of Mercy
15 Highland View Road, Cumberland RI 02864