Sister Mary Denis Woods

Written on: August 1, 2016

Sister Mary Denis Woods, GNSH, 89, died in St. Joseph’s Manor, Meadowbrook, PA on July 27, 2016 in her 71st year as a Grey Nun of the Sacred Heart.

Imelda Theresa Woods was born in Jackson Heights, NY on May 15, 1927 to the late Michael and Mary Beirne Woods. She graduated from Blessed Sacrament School and Bishop McDonnell Memorial High School.  She received a BA in History from D’Youville College, Buffalo, NY and an MA in Administration from Villanova University. Graduate courses were taken at Siena College and the College of Notre Dame of Maryland.

Sister Mary Denis influenced the lives of countless young people and adults over the 56 years of her ministry as an educator in Massachusetts, New York, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

  • From 1957-1970 she was successively  principal at St Canicus, Mahanoy City; taught at Bishop McDevitt High School, Wyncote; and was principal at Our Lady of the Assumption, Strafford.
  • She was the Principal at St Leo’s, Corona from 1971- 92 where she also taught in the 1950’s.
  • She taught at Our Lady of Fatima, Jackson Heights from 1992-97; in 1998 she became librarian at Blessed Sacrament School, continuing her role in the lives of students.

In 2003 she moved to the Motherhouse in Yardley, PA where her retirement years were filled with prayer ministry, as well as the ministry of hospitality. She prayed the rosary regularly with residents of D’Youville Manor for more than ten years, moving there herself in November 2014. In 2016, she moved to St. Joseph Manor with increased health needs.

Giving generously even after death, she donated her body to science.

In addition to her religious congregation, she is survived by her sister, Cornelia (Connie) Fonseca and many nieces and nephews.   Brothers, Michael and Edward Woods and sisters, Sister Mary Terence (Patricia), GNSH and Sister Michael Marie (Joan), GNSH predeceased her.

A Memorial Mass celebrated on Saturday, July 30, 2016 at 4 PM at the Holy Redeemer Provincialate at 521 Moredon Road, Huntingdon, PA 19006 honored her extraordinary life. Memorial donations may be made online to the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, or by mail at the following address:14500 Bustleton Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19116.


Sister Jean Liston has graciously shared her reflection on how Sister Mary Denis lived her life. Click here to read more

Click here to read what Sr. Mary Denis had to say about her 70th Jubilee as a Grey Nun of the Sacred Heart.


3 thoughts on “Sister Mary Denis Woods

  1. Frances Beltram Nicolini says:

    I was a student at St. Leo’s when she taught there. I as a young child thought oh how tall was she. May she rest in peace.

  2. giorgio giovagnoli says:

    I was a student at St. Leo’s. 40 years ago my family and I decided to move back to Italy. I’ve been to the states a few times after and visited Sr. Mary Denis in ’86. I always have ST. Leo’s in my thoughts and memories. rest in peace.

  3. Patricia L Batista says:

    Sr. Mary Denis, thank you for all that you did for us. You were a tough lady, but we knew you practiced tough love. I think of you often, especially when writing.

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