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.

Sister Mary Denis Woods, Burial of Cremains, June 2, 2018

Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, 3301 W Cheltenham Ave., Philadelphia, PA  19150

Sister Mary Denis died in 2016 and left instructions donating her body to science.  Her cremains were recently returned to the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart and, again according to her request, plans were made for interment near her sisters, Michael Marie woods (Joan) and Mary Terence (Patricia) in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery. 

After contacting her family, plans were made for the burial on June 2, 2018 at 1 p.m. Approximately 20 family members were present, including her sister, Connie’s children and spouses and grandchildren.  The following Grey Nuns were also present: Sisters Mary Charlotte Barton, Mary Brendan Connors, Cecelia Cosgrove, Mary Lee Farrell, Mary Finnick, Mary Elizabeth Looby, Rita Margraff, Mary McMahon, Mary Mulligan, Maureen O’Hara, Josephine Patti, Mary Salvadore and Eileen White; and Jane Selinske, Community Life Administrator.

Several Sisters led portions of the service and all joined in responses and hymns.  Spontaneous petitions were shared in memory of Sister Mary Denis.  As is our custom, the Grey Nuns sang the Salve Regina at the conclusion of the service. 

After the service, 2 nieces took pictures/video to share with their mother, Connie, Sister Mary Denis’ sibling who was unable to attend.

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.


4 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.

  4. E. Merino 81 says:

    Sister Mary Dennis and family I was a student at St Leo’s from 1973 – 1981as other would say she was tough as nails and very tall. I always remember she rand her big bell to get everyone’s attention. Despite of being very strict you loved your students and give you my upmost respect. Because of you, other sisters and educators I became someone and I THANK YOU and St. Leos for all. I wish I could have seen her in person before she left us. I will always remember you, I will say my prayers and may you ever rest in eternal peace. You have touched many many lives and made a huge difference. NYC2CA

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