Sister Mary Lou followed a call to full-time ministry as an advocate for those on the margins by meeting social needs made more visible after the turbulent sixties.

Sister Mary Lou Steele, Sister Elizabeth Maureen, was born December 21, 1925, in Manhattan, the only child of Warren and Elizabeth Smith Steele. Mary Lou attended elementary and high school in Woodstock, VT, and College of Mount Saint Vincent, the Bronx, earning a BA in English. After graduation, Mary Lou worked for a year as a Library Assistant before entering the Sisters of Charity of New York on September 8, 1949. In 1956, she received an MA in English from Saint John’s University, Jamaica, New York, and earned New York State Permanent Certification in English Grades 7–12.

Sister Mary Lou’s forty-five years of active service were devoted to two ministry areas, education and social justice concerns. Over a period of nineteen years, she taught courses in English, Religion, Science and Social Studies in Cathedral High School at Holy Trinity Branch and All Saints Branch, both in Manhattan, and at Cardinal Spellman High School, the Bronx. In early 1970, Sister Mary Lou followed a call to full-time ministry as an advocate for those on the margins by meeting social needs made more visible after the turbulent sixties.

At the start of the next twenty-six years, she directed her services to the Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Home, the National Council of Churches, the Catholic Peace Fellowship, and Clergy and Laity Concerned. During the AIDS epidemic, Sister Mary Lou devoted ten years at Bellevue Hospital educating about AIDS and the need to offer a compassionate response to those living with the disease. She also studied and practiced phlebotomy to aid the research of the disease.

In the early years of her retirement, Sister Mary Lou volunteered at Elizabeth Seton Women’s Center in Manhattan. She was a natural as a greeter of those attending programs and, twice a year, organized a mailing for thousands of Center brochures. She was also a steady volunteer at the Convent of Mary the Queen for five years, using public transportation from mid-Manhattan to Yonkers to travel. In 2013, she retired at Mary the Queen and shortly after became part of the Sisters forming community at The New Jewish Home in the Bronx. She died August 23, 2023, at New York Presbyterian Allen Hospital in the 74th year of commitment as a Sister of Charity of New York.

A little known (or shown) talent of Sister Mary Lou’s was her ability to play the organ which she began while growing up in Vermont. Those who knew her well respected her as true to her convictions, a faithful friend, and generous in hospitality and acceptance.

Sister Mary Lou, our loving God welcomes you home to the fullness of mercy and love, virtues you showed to many in this life. Go in peace to the God who waits to say YES to you.

Date of Death
August 23, 2023


Thursday, August 31, 2023
9:45 a.m.
St. Margaret of Cortona Church
6000 Riverdale Avenue Bronx, NY 10471
Live Streaming begins at 9:45 a.m.:

Mount Saint Vincent Cemetery Date to be determined.


Archdiocese of New York 

  • Cathedral High School, Holy Trinity Branch, Religion, Science, Social Studies,  1952-60, Teacher
  • Cathedral High School, All Saints Branch, Religion, General Science, 1960-61, Teacher
  • Cardinal Spellman High School, Bronx, English, Religion, 1961-71, Teacher
  • Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Home, Yonkers, 1972-74, Supervisor of Volunteers
  • Columbia University Medical Center/National Council of Churches, Manhattan, 1974-75, Receptionist
  • Catholic Worker, 1975-77, Volunteer
  • Catholic Peace Fellowship, 1977-78, Staff Member
  • Clergy & Laity Concerned, Manhattan, 1978-87, Direct Mail Processor
  • Bellevue Hospital, Manhattan, 1987-97, AIDS Educator
  • Prayer, Service & Witness, 1997-2013, Volunteer Service