Aunt Dotsie

Sister Dorothy Reilly
  • Sister, Aunt, Great-Aunt, Great-great-Aunt, Teacher, Financial Consultant, Social Activist, Mentor, Leader, Friend

    At Aunt Dotsie’s funeral services this weekend, it quickly became apparent that she had touched the lives of many, many people, in a variety of different ways. I learned so much more about her from listening to the stories and talking to the people who had been a part of her life.  She was brillant and fair, loving and devoted. If you came into her circle, you became one of hers – she adopted a sense of responsibility for you.

    She was dedicated to God, to her community of Sisters in the Order of the Daughters of Wisdom, to her students, to her colleagues, to the parishioners at the St. Mary Gate of Heaven Church in Queens, NY, and to her family, whom she loved unconditionally and supported with all her heart.

    When I moved to New York for college, I had no family in the area, except for her. Those four years with her were a blessing. I was young and naive, excited to be in the big city and out of my small town in California. I was hungry for my education, but I was also a little lost. I was lonely and scared, and having her there for me made those four years bearable. When I had short holidays, I would go out to the house in Islip and visit her and the other sisters. I would stay the weekend and hang out in the refuge that was their home. It was quiet and peaceful, so different from the dorms, and I was able to relax, study, write my papers in peace. And I was able to get a fill of family to tide me over to my next visit home.

    For Thanksgiving, we would drive up to visit more family in Syracuse and on those long drive through Upstate New York, we would talk about so many wonderful things. We would have great conversations about the Church, and the state of the community of Sisters in the United States. She was gravely concerned that her order was slowly dying out, that young women were not choosing to join the Community. That the conflict between dedication to God and the desire to have a family led many women to choose a family over the celibate life required of a Sister. She worried that unless the Roman Catholic Church made some changes, the Catholic community would eventually lose the support and good works provided by the Sisters. However, in other countries around the world, the Orders are still strong, that this is largely a problem faced only by the Catholic communities in the United States. She cared deeply for her community and was concerned for its future. She was intelligent and outspoken – hoping to make a difference.

    She was a brillant mind, with an aptitude for math, science and the languages. As a high school student, she passed the NY Regents Latin exam with a perfect score. She taught chemistry and physics, creating science curriculum that was used by others. She was named as a Hall of Fame member for Christ the King Regional High School in Middle Village, NY.

    She was a concerned citizen, who used her influence to try and change the world. As a member of the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment, she supported the Leviticus 25:23 Fund, which is an investment fund that offers socially responsible ways to support low income communities. Through her work with the Tri-State Coalition, she was a social advocate for change – working to clean PCB out of the Hudson River, to preserve vital water resources and reduce the use of water by corporations, to end apartheid in South Africa, to improve the working conditions in factories worldwide and to help the men and women working in mines in the Congo.

    She was an active member of the Frank E. Evans Association, never wanting to let us forget the men we lost that day in June 1969. She frequently attended the reunions and conferences.

    But most of all, she was beloved by her Sisters in Faith. All weekend I heard murmurs about how much she had did for them and the unknown of what they were now going to have to do without her. They were able to remember with humor her foibles and faults, but more than anything they spoke with love of her commitment to them, her generosity and willingness to always help, her patience in working with them on finances. and her spiritual devotion to God.

    There are so many of us who have been touched by the love and care Aunt Dotsie had for her family, her Sisters, her friends and her community. She will truly be missed and we were blessed to have her for the time that we did.

    You can read her obituary from the Daughters of Wisdom here.

    Condolences, gifts and donations in Sr. Dorothy’s memory can be made to: The Daughters of Wisdom, 385 Ocean Ave. Islip, NY 11751 or online by clicking here.

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