Sister Grace Nolan, age 97, formerly Sister Mary Trinita, died peacefully at McAuley Hall Health Care Center on Saturday, April 1, 2017. Grace was the sixth of seven children born to Louis and Frances Nolan in Trenton, New Jersey. Her father, a grocer, was an active member of the St. Vincent DePaul Society in Trenton. As a child, Grace would accompany him when he loaded his truck and delivered food to families in need. It was from him that she absorbed a devotion to those who experienced poverty. In later years, when she lived and advocated for those who were poor in Atlantic City, she was widely known simply as Sister Grace.
She was educated by the Sisters of Mercy at St. Mary School and at Cathedral High School in Trenton. She was attracted to religious life but spent 10 years as a secretary with General Motors before entering the community in 1946. She completed her education at Georgian Court College, now University, with a degree in elementary education and began teaching at Mount St. Mary Academy in 1948. From there she moved to Our Lady Star of the Sea School in Atlantic City, Our Lady of Lourdes School in Milltown and St. John School in Paulsboro. She was named principal at St. John School in Collingswood in 1960 and then at Holy Spirit School in Atlantic City where she was both teacher and principal.
Her childhood experience, serving those who are poor, drew her next to Catholic Social Services in the Camden diocese. She was appointed administrator and coordinator of the Atlantic City office and thus began 41 years of service to the poor, sick and troubled in a city of great disparities: glitz and glamour, poverty and desperation. As coordinator of family services, she provided case management, emergency financial aid and crisis pregnancy aid. Always with a smile, she brought care and services to more than 8,000 families and individuals. Grace was well-known to casino executives who recognized the value of friendship with her and gladly gave furniture, electronics and food through her agency to distribute to the needy in the city.
Modest and unassuming though she was, Grace received many honors from both church and civic groups: Atlantic City Women's Hall of Fame; the Pro Ecclesia Pontifice Papal Medal; Proclaimer of Life Award and the St. Vincent DePaul Award from the Camden Diocese. She was named Woman of the Year by the Atlantic City Business and Professional Women's Club and the Sisterhood of Temple Emeth Shalom. She was the only woman ever to receive the Outstanding Man of the Year award from the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick. In 2004, Catholic Charities established the Grace Nolan Award for Social Ministry in her honor.
In 2011, Grace retired to McAuley Hall Health Care Center in Watchung but her legacy in Atlantic City lives on. Kevin Hickey, director of Catholic Charities at that time, described her as "a most remarkable woman . . .[who] keeps on giving a part of herself to everyone she meets."
Sister Grace is survived by many nieces, nephews, Sisters of Mercy and a remarkable group of loving and grateful friends.
Visitation will take place at Mount Saint Mary Chapel, 1645 Highway 22, Watchung, NJ 07069, on Wednesday, April 5, 2017.
Wake: 9:00 to 11:00AM
Welcome Home: 10:00 AM
Mass of Christian Burial: 11:00AM
Burial will be in St. Mary's Cemetery Trenton, NJ
Memorial Mass at a later date at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Atlantic City, NJ
Memorial donations may be made to Our Lady Star of the Sea School, 15 North California Ave, Atlantic City, NJ 08041.