Dominican Sister of Peace Delia McDonald, OP (79), died on February 11, 2016, at Mohun Health Care Center (Columbus, OH). She is preceded in death by her parents, Harry Sawyer and Delia Maria (Dugas) McDonald, and her brother Harry Sawyer McDonald, Jr.
In 1955 Sr. Delia entered the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of St. Mary, (New Orleans, LA) now the Dominican Sisters of Peace. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Secondary Education from St. Mary’s Dominican College (New Orleans, LA), a Master of Science from the University of Oklahoma (Norman, OK) and a Certificate in Administration from Loyola University (New Orleans, LA). She taught at St. Peter School (Reserve, LA) from 1960 to 1962. From 1962 to 2014 she ministered at St. Mary’s Dominican High School (New Orleans, LA) first as teacher, later as assistant principal, then principal. During some of those years she served in the school’s development and finance offices as well as the congregational finance office. In 1991 she was chosen as St. Mary’s Dominican High School Alumna of the Year and received the Heritage Award in 2001.
“She was a delightful person,” said Sr. Angeline Magro, OP, who knew McDonald for six decades. “Very kind, very loving, very dedicated.”
Sr. Mary Dominic Savio Estorge, OP, said of Sr. Delia, “There was no question that she loved people, but she also liked them. She seemed to be interested in everybody. She got to know the students, and they got to know her. It was not very long before she knew their stories as well as those of many of their parents and even their grandparents. She knew the alumnae and their families. She knew the families of the Dominican Sisters, the teachers at Dominican High School, and all of the personnel at Dominican. She knew about the nurses, doctors, firemen, ambulance drivers, orderlies and aids who took care of her during hospital visits or chemo treatments. Some people think she even knew the store personnel and many of the shoppers at Sam’s, Stage, Penny’s, Walmart and Walgreen. No matter who people were, she would talk to them, and they felt that they could talk to her.”
Cynthia Thomas, who succeeded McDonald as principal at St. Mary’s Dominican HS, said Sr. Delia was “…a very compassionate leader to her students and to the faculty. She cared deeply about people.” Thomas, who was first hired as a teacher by McDonald, credited her with leading a school that excelled academically and prepared women to be leaders in their professions and in the community. “Students were well-prepared when they left Dominican High School to go to college,” she said. “So much of what we have continued to build on was the outstanding school that Sister left us.”
In her reflection on Sr. Delia’s life Sr. Therese Leckert, OP, said:
Sr. Delia, as she chose the Scripture for this Mass, preached two simple messages, the same messages she preached through her life. The first is that love is the greatest of the virtues. As Paul tells us in his Letter to the Corinthians, “Love bears all things, hopes all things and endures all things.” No matter what happens to us in our lives, what pain, illness, tragedies, loss we encounter, if we love God and neighbor, we can bear all things and still have hope. Delia preached this message by her loving and caring ways. She was a people person; she loved people and was loved by them. She came to Columbus, OH, just a month before she died and soon learned that further treatment for her cancer would be useless. But when I visited her one day at Mohun [Health Care Center], she asked for a copy of our picture directory; she wanted to learn the names of the Sisters with whom she was now living.
For 19 Delia served as Principal of St. Mary’s Dominican High School in New Orleans. She related with ease to teachers, students, parents, alumni, maintenance and cafeteria staff. She loved being around her students, so much so she could often be found serving lunch just in order to talk to them. So the readings and songs of today’s Mass highlight the virtue of love that Delia’s life exemplified. It was fitting that the religious name she chose was Sr. Mary Caritas.
Delia’s second message to us is to trust that all will be well. In the Book of Wisdom, we read, “The souls of the just are in the hands of God.” Can there be a more wonderful safe place to be than in the hands of God? Delia believed that she would be with God. She trusted that in God’s hands, all would be well.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” He promises to take us to a dwelling place prepared especially for us. All we need to do is to follow the way of Jesus, because he said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” We are called to be disciples of Jesus, trusting that if we live with him, we will be raised to new life in our heavenly dwelling place.
Delia now lives in her new dwelling place, full of light and peace. Let us trust that as we live our daily lives, trying to love one another and follow the way of Jesus, God will be with us and will be there for us when we cross the threshold of heaven.
Sr. Delia is survived by nieces Ellen Bynum (Barry) and Ann Nicholson (Scott) and by grandnieces and grandnephews, Rachel, Ben, Alex, Julia and Kate.
The wake and funeral were held on February 20 and 21, 2016, at St. Rita Church, New Orleans, LA, with burial following at Rosaryville Cemetery (Ponchatoula, LA).
Memorial gifts in honor of Sr. Delia McDonald may be submitted securely online at oppeace.org or mailed to Dominican Sisters of Peace, Office of Mission Advancement, 2320 Airport Dr, Columbus, OH 43219-2098.