Sister Madeline “Maddie” Dorsey, M.M., Maryknoll Sister for 85 Years Dies

Sister Madeline “Maddie” Dorsey, M.M. died on February 13th, 2021 at the Maryknoll Sisters Center, Maryknoll, NY.  Maddie was born on June 26th, 1918 in Brooklyn, NY to Katherine (Poleon) Dorsey and John Dorsey. She had one brother and two sisters: John, Madeline and Kathryn; all of whom have pre-deceased her.

In 1936, Maddie graduated from St. Francis Xavier Academy, Brooklyn, NY.   On December 8th, 1936 she entered the Congregation (from St. Patrick’s Parish, Brooklyn). She made her First Profession of Vows on June 30th, 1939 and her Final Profession of Vows on June 30th, 1942; both at the Maryknoll Sisters Center, Maryknoll, NY.

From 1940-1945, Sister Maddie studied at Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing. She then studied at St. Louis University, St. Louis, MO and became Certified in Hospital Administration in 1949. Later, in 1976 she earned a Master’s Degree in Religious Studies at Maryknoll Seminary, Maryknoll, NY.

Sister Maddie received her first overseas mission assignment to Panama in 1945. For four months she worked in public health and taught catechetics and was then assigned to Riberalta, Bolivia. There, she spent the first few years serving as a public health nurse/nursing supervisor and then helped set up a jungle hospital. In 1949, she moved to Ceylon where she served as a nursing supervisor in a government hospital in Candy.

Ten years before the Civil Rights Act banned racial discrimination in the workplace, Sister Maddie returned to the U.S. and worked with a team of Maryknoll Sisters, who opened the first racially-integrated hospital, Queen of the World Hospital, in Kansas City, MO in 1955. On “Bloody Sunday,” Sister Maddie and another Maryknoll Sister were placed on the front lines of that march, from Selma to Montgomery, AL representing the black doctors who worked with them at Queen of the World Hospital.

Sister Maddie then relocated to Peru to work in the Puno Hospital as Nursing General in the pre-mature obstetrics ward from 1966-1971. She then returned to the Maryknoll Sisters Center, NY for Congregational Service, assisting with health services in the Sisters Bethany Nursing Home until 1976.

The next 16 years of her mission journey (1976-1992) were spent in Central America, where she engaged in pastoral work, administered preventive medicines and helped build basic ecclesial communities in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico. From 1976-1981, Sister Maddie was on mission in El Salvador during the tumultuous civil war years. She lived in one of the poorest areas of the country and when the killing began, she comments, “We spent a lot of time simply accompanying people in their grief.” When the four churchwomen, Maryknoll Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford, Lay Missioner Jean Donovan and Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel were brutally murdered by National Guardsmen in 1980, Sister Maddie was one of the Maryknoll Sisters who identified the bodies. In 1981, when the Salvadoran Church and government authorities said the safety of the Sisters could not be assured, they reluctantly left the country.

In 1993, she returned to the Maryknoll Sisters Center, Maryknoll, NY for Congregational Service, ministering to the elderly Sisters and helping with outreach among the Hispanic community through St. Ann’s Parish and the Open Door Family Medical Centers in Ossining, NY.  In 2001, she moved to West Haven, CT for a brief period and from 2002-2005 she semi-retired at the Maryknoll Sisters Community in Monrovia, CA. In both places, she volunteered in several community service opportunities.

In 2006, Sister Maddie returned to the Maryknoll Sisters Center, Maryknoll, NY to fully retire. During this time, she was always happy to respond to requests to be a speaker and witness for justice and peace events and retreats.

Funeral Services: Sister Maddie generously donated her body to science.  A Memorial Liturgy will be livestreamed on Thursday, February 18th, 2021 due to the pandemic.  Her ashes will be interred at Maryknoll Sisters Cemetery, Maryknoll, NY at a later date.