Margaret Fennelly Grace


graceMargaret Fennelly Grace, a leading Catholic lay person and philanthropist, passed away at the age 93 in Lost Tree Village, FL. Mrs. Grace died on Feb. 27 at her winter home after a long illness. 

Mrs. Grace was the longtime president of Grace Institute, a tuition-free job-training program for women in Manhattan, from which she graduated in 1938. She was predeceased by her husband, J. Peter Grace, Jr., who served as chairman and CEO of W. R. Grace & Co. from 1945 until his passing in 1995.

Born in New York City on August 7, 1920, “Margie,” as she was known, worked in Rome during the Second Vatican Council with a small group of friends of Leon Josef Cardinal Suenens of Brussels, Belgium, who played a significant role as the chief moderator of the Council. This group assisted the Cardinal in areas of particular interest to him, such as ecumenism, world poverty, marriage, and the commitment of priests and women religious.

Following the Council, Margie worked as the U.S. envoy for Cardinal Suenens until his death in 1996, in which year she founded the Cardinal Suenens Center at John Carroll University in Cleveland, OH.

Her legendary kindness extended beyond her own family to the family of the Catholic Church where she and her late husband, Peter, provided leadership and support to schools, retreat houses, monasteries, seminaries, convents, colleges and universities.

A member of the Dames of the Order of Malta and the Ladies of the Holy Sepulcher, Margie received the Elizabeth Ann Seton Medal from St. John’s University, New York, was honored as an “Angel” by the Archdiocese of New York and the Ladies of Charity, and was awarded honorary degrees from St. Michael’s College, Vermont, Trinity College, Washington D.C., and the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio.

A longtime resident of Manhasset, Mrs. Grace was the devoted mother of nine children: J. Peter Grace III of Mount Desert, ME, Dr. William R. Grace of Plandome, NY, M. Stephen Grace of Palm Beach, FL, Margie Grace-Shethar of Colorado Springs, CO, Mary J. Grace of Manhattan, Nora M. O’Donnell of Marlboro, MA, Patrick P. Grace of Manhattan, Theresa M. Sears of Manhasset, NY, and Christopher G. Grace of Sheffield, MA. She is also survived by 27 grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, and by her devoted friend, Rosaleen Lynch.

Margie graduated from Cathedral High School, Manhattan, earned a B.A. in Theology Magna Cum Laude from Fordham University, New York, and continued graduate studies in theology at Fordham, at Immaculate Conception Seminary, Darlington, NJ and at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana.

A funeral mass was held at Saint Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Manhasset this past Tuesday, March 4. Internment was at Saint Joseph’s Abbey, Spencer, MA.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Cathedral High School, 350 East 56th Street, New York, NY 10022.

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