Sister Nancy was born and grew up in Philadelphia. After high school at Notre Dame, Moylan, she worked for a year before entering Maryknoll in 1960. After entering Maryknoll, she worked in the library and the Maryknoll Post Office and received her A.A. from Mary Rogers College before being assigned to the Bolivia-Peru Region in 1967.
In 1968, after language study, Sister Nancy did pastoral work in Cobija, Bolivia, and taught religion in the public high school. At that time the Latin American Church had analyzed the situation of the massive poverty on the continent, and the poor became a pastoral priority. Sister Nancy opted to live in a neighborhood of factory workers in La Paz, and worked for eight years and eight months in a factory that packaged medicinal cotton.
Some of her friends are still coughing up cotton from their lungs. “Not too many measures were taken to preserve our health, because that wasn’t the point at all,” Sister Nancy said. Of these years she shared, “After you’re a factory worker for a while, earning almost $4 a week, you realize that this isn’t poor, if you live in a neighborhood where some people don’t have steady jobs and don’t know if they’ll earn anything next week.”
After her years at the factory, Sister Nancy studied to be a nurse’s assistant at the School of Public Health in La Paz, receiving her Bolivian nursing title in 1978. With her nursing skills, she did health promotion for two years in the Department of La Paz on the Bolivia-Peru-Chile border and also in the highlands. Eventually the neighborhood, where Sister Nancy lived and worked among the people in La Paz, became a parish founded around basic Christian communities.
Using the see-judge-act process, these communities work from practice to theory rather than the other way around. They talk about problems and share what they think the Word of God says about their problems. They become more conscious of their reality and of their rights. Sister Nancy’s ministry was one of accompanying these communities. She was a member of two of the communities and also did some health care.
Accompanying the people in her parish, Sister Nancy kept making theory practical. They found ways to feed the hungry, to help the sick, and to advocate for the imprisoned. She thinks that is what Jesus had in mind when He left us to carry on the work he had begun.
Sister Nancy returned to Maryknoll Sisters Center in 2016 and currently is a volunteer caring for the elderly Sisters.