Sister Mary Ellen Dwyer, SSJ, formerly Sister Mariella, of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Northwestern Pennsylvania, died on March 13, 2019 on the eve of her 82nd birthday. Sister Mary Ellen was born in Bradford, Pennsylvania on March 14, 1937 the daughter of the late Raymond and Genevieve MacMaster Dwyer. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph from St. Bernard Parish, Bradford, PA, on August 30, 1955 and professed her final vows on August 15, 1961. She was in the 65th year of her religious life.
Sister Mary Ellen earned a diploma in nursing from Spencer School of Nursing in Meadville, PA, in 1961. She continued her education at Villa Maria College, Erie, and graduated in 1964 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing. She then earned a Master of Science degree in Nursing from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, in 1969.
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
Sister Mary Ellen’s earlier ministries included teaching at Holy Rosary and Villa Maria Elementary Schools in Erie. Her long history of health care ministry began at Spencer Hospital as a staff nurse and pediatric head nurse (1961-1967.) Her ministry in health care continued in nursing education at Spencer School of Nursing (1967-1973) and at Villa Maria College (1973-1977.) She worked in healthcare administration at Spencer Hospital/Meadville Medical Center from 1977 to 1987; at the Visiting Nurses’ Association of Crawford County from 1987 to 1989. In 1989, she and SSJ Associate John Brown, developed and managed Hospice of Crawford County, Inc., the first Medicare certified Hospice in Northwestern Pennsylvania. From 2003 to 2011, she served in Congregational Leadership ministry for the sisters of St. Joseph of Northwestern Pennsylvania – as Treasurer from 2003 to 2007 and President from 2007 to 2011. She also served on the SSJ Board of Directors. After serving in Leadership, Sister Mary Ellen volunteered at Saint Vincent Hospital, the Sisters of St. Joseph Neighborhood Network soup kitchen, and she accompanied sisters to doctor appointments and surgical procedures. She was a caregiver for her sister, Sally, and her brother, Jim prior to their deaths.
“All of my nursing education and previous professional and life experiences have prepared me well for Hospice and Palliative Care ministries which were great blessings in my life,” Sister Mary Ellen used to say.
In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by two sisters, Sarah (Sally) Dwyer of Erie and Marian Vorp of Venice, FL; and one brother, James Dwyer of Orchard Park, NY. She is survived by several nieces, nephews, good friends and by the Sisters of St. Joseph.