Sister Brendan Lacey was a nurse in the days that you nursed with love.
And she was loved back--she could sell hundreds of spaghetti dinner tickets in downtown York for the Divine Saviour Church “because nobody would turn her down,” remembers friend Nan Robinson.
Known for her laugh, her kind heart and a memory that never faded--Lacey died on Wednesday at age 105.
“If she could help you out, she would--in any way,” said Father John Giuliani of Rock Hill’s The Oratory.
He worked with Lacey from 1983 to 1992 while she served as a nurse at the former Divine Saviour Hospital and in the church’s parish in York.
Lacey passed away at a convent on James Island.
Born in Ireland on March 14, 1908, Lacey never became a U.S. citizen.
She was a graduate of St. Francis Xavier School of Nursing in Charleston and received a bachelor's degree in nursing from the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“She told me she was a missionary and missionaries would do their work and leave,” Giuliani said.
But Lacey never left the U.S.
And, when she was given a six-month assignment to serve at Divine Saviour Hospital, she didn’t seem to want to leave there either.
Lacey served the hospital’s sick and the Divine Saviour Church’s needs for 32 years.
“She went the extra mile,” Giuliani said, and she would stay constantly by someone’s bed as they were dying.
Lacey saw life and death--sometimes one quickly after the other--as a registered nurse at the York hospital.
She was a “wonderful RN,” Giuliani said.
Recently, Robinson, a Divine Saviour Church member, came across some of Lacey’s old papers. The stack was “pages and pages and pages” of birth records, Robinson said.
Lacey had kept a record of every baby she’d baptized at birth, many of whom were stillborns or died shortly after birth. Written on the pages were dates, and some babies had no name, Robinson said.
Some of the birth records go back to the 1940s, she said.
Robinson’s son, Christopher Brendan Robinson, is named after Lacey.
The family recently sent Lacey a high school graduation announcement for Christopher--to let her know how her namesake was doing. She returned a card quickly and included a $10 bill.
“That’s just how she was,” Robinson said.
Lacey had help from another nun to keep in touch with friends and loved ones. By her side, another nun would write the cards and letters Lacey wanted to send.
Her eyesight was poor, Robinson said, but “she had a perfect memory.”
When Robinson married and moved to York in 1990, she met Lacey at Divine Saviour.
Robinson’s mother-in-law died of breast cancer at the York hospital before she had a chance to meet her. Lacey had cared for the woman.
“She remembered the room number at the hospital...she just told details that you just wouldn’t normally remember,” Robinson said.
The Divine Saviour Church named its parish life center--Brendan Hall--after Lacey.
In the city of York, she was honored on Sept. 28, 1984, with “Sister Brendan’s Day.”
Lacey left York about one year after the hospital closed. She and other sisters moved into prayer ministry at the St. Mary Magdalene Parish in Simpsonville, S.C.
Several years later, she received papal honors for her service to the Lord by Pope Benedict XVI. Later, she lived at the May Forest community of the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy on James Island.
Robinson and many others from the York church visited her about five years ago on Lacey’s 100th birthday. She was in a wheelchair but in good spirits, she said.
“She was in a very happy place.”
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Saturday at May Forest on James Island. A Rite of Committal will follow. A vigil service will be held at the convent on Friday.