Gracita Daly, BVM died Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017, at Marian Hall in Dubuque, Iowa. Visitation will be from 9–11 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, in the Marian Hall Chapel followed by a prayer service at 11 a.m. Funeral liturgy will be at 1:30 p.m. Burial is in the Mount Carmel cemetery.
She was born in Burlington, Iowa, on Sept. 18, 1924, to Patrick Frank and Grace Helen (Agnew) Daly. She entered the BVM congregation Sept. 8, 1941, from St. John the Baptist Parish, Burlington, Iowa. She professed first vows on March 19, 1944, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1949.
Gracita taught elementary school and was principal in Davenport, Iowa; Lincoln, Neb.; West Hempstead, N.Y.; and Chicago and Berwyn, Ill., where she also served as parish minister. She volunteered for United Senior Action in Indianapolis, Ind.
She was preceded in death by her parents; sisters Mary C. Daly and Helen C. Luttenegger; and brothers Hugh and Mark. She is survived by nieces, nephews and the Sisters of Charity, BVM, with whom she shared life for 75 years.
Sister Gracita Daly, BVM
Marian Hall, Jan. 20, 2017
Good afternoon and welcome to the celebration of life of our Sister Gracita Daly. We especially welcome her family and friends, her set members, Helen Emerson, and all who view this service on closed circuit TV or through videostreaming.
Eleanor Daly entered this world on Sept. 18, 1924, as the youngest of five children born to Patrick and Grace (Agnew) Daly of Burlington, Iowa. She joined siblings Mary, Hugh, Mark and Helen. Eleanor’s father left school to go to work after the fourth grade due to his father’s death. Her mother graduated from Lourdes Academy, which later became St. Paul HS and then Notre Dame HS. With the help of Eleanor’s mother, her father earned a certificate from Iowa State College through correspondence courses and became a gas engineer.
Eleanor attended St. John ES and graduated from St. Paul HS. She entered the congregation on Sept. 8, 1941, and received the name Gracita upon her reception on March 19, 1942. She professed her first vows on March 19, 1944, and lived 75 years as a BVM.
In her life story, Gracita fondly recalled memories of her early years as a BVM: spending summers at the Immaculate Conception Academy in Davenport, Iowa, and commuting to St. Ambrose College to earn a bachelor of arts degree. “Summer school was very good for us. We laughed a lot, shared our early teaching experiences and made lasting friendships . . . To this day,” she wrote, “when I meet a BVM from those days at St. Ambrose, we pick up where we left off and again have very meaningful sharing.”
Gracita spent 36 years in education, teaching elementary and junior high grades at St. Odilo in Berwyn, Ill.; Blessed Sacrament and Holy Family in Chicago; Immaculate Conception and St. Anthony in Davenport; St. Francis Xavier in Kansas City, Mo.; and St. John in Lincoln, Neb. She also served as principal at St. John in Lincoln, St. Anthony in Davenport, and St. Thomas the Apostle in West Hempstead, N.Y., which was one of her favorite missions.
“The church and school were built on property in the heart of the downtown,” she wrote. “[M]any [students] lived above the stores or along the railroad tracks. At least one-third of the students were transfers . . . and many were very poor. Their parents thought that if they had a grade school education that was quite enough. Times were changing, so I tried to make them see the importance of at least finishing high school.”
Long after retiring, Gracita received a letter from a woman whom she hired as a teacher. She wrote, “Each year I try to thank a person who has made a difference in my life. You certainly were one of those people. You hired me to teach . . . [and] you let me make mistakes without criticism. From you, I learned administrative skills and by watching you, I learned about allowing people to grow into a job. I was such a scared kid then but you just accepted me and encouraged me. Thank you for your understanding and patience.”
From 1974–79, as a patient representative for Marian Hall residents, Gracita planned numerous activities. She initiated the audiotaping of the BVM Constitutions and related materials, companioned sisters to the hospital, provided ministry of presence for the dying, and kept in touch with their families. One hundred ten sisters died during her five-year ministry. “One would think that constant association with the sick and elderly . . . would be very demanding,” wrote Gracita. “Yet, love does these things . . . I left a big part of my heart there when I left.”
In 1986, Gracita returned to St. Odilo in Berwyn to serve as pastoral associate in charge of coordinating adult faith formation. During this time, she reconnected with a former student when that woman’s mother died. Without siblings or even cousins, she would have been alone at the funeral home. Gracita decided to forego a planned retreat weekend to be present with her. “Sister Gracita Daly was a good teacher,” wrote the former student, “and an even [better] friend.”
In 1991, Gracita moved to Indianapolis at the invitation of Sister Pat Griffin, BVM who was ministering there, and had the expectation of resting after her golden jubilee celebrations. Instead, she accepted a position with United Senior Action. Traveling an eight-county region of Indiana, Gracita located seniors who, despite receiving Social Security, were still living below poverty level, and signed them up to receive Supplemental Security Income. Funded by an 18-month grant, Gracita, along with eight other people, enrolled over 4,000 seniors. After the grant ended, Gracita continued working with United Senior Action as a volunteer to influence legislation and program funding to aid seniors.
Her ministry to seniors continued in an unofficial capacity when she moved to Wright Hall and later to Mount Carmel. “Availability to other’s needs is so necessary,” she wrote. “Ministering . . . to one another may not look like a special mission, because it takes only a pleasant smile and much gratitude.” She truly loved people, and it was her welcoming smile and playful nature that opened the door to many beautiful relationships. She never took anyone for granted; an expression of gratitude awaited every service or kindness she received.
Gracita was a woman full of life. A love of nature and travel called her to the National Parks in the western United States and to Alaska. She also toured Europe extensively. Still, she enjoyed simple things like going for a ride, playing computer games and cards, and chocolate—especially chocolate.
Gracita also loved being with her extensive family, many of whom are no strangers to Mount Carmel because the annual family reunion was relocated here so that Gracita’s birthday celebration could be a part of it.
“Gracita was a prayerful woman who daily renewed her vows as part of her morning offering. She once said, “The theme song of my relationship with God has always been, ‘I know you love me everlastingly and unconditionally. I place my trust in you.’” In the Gospel, we hear “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.” Gracita was “clean of heart.” She loved God with her whole being and everything she did was an expression of that love. So with confidence and great gratitude, we bid our sister Gracita farewell as she enters into eternal life and sees the face of God.
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