Sr Mary Lea “Betty” Abell

Photo added by AnnieSings

Sr Mary Lea “Betty” Abell

  • Birth 12 Jan 1924 Washington, District of Columbia, District Of Columbia, USA
  • Death 14 May 2010 Woodbrook, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA
  • Burial Glen Arm, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA
  • Memorial ID 52409632

Sister Mary Lea Abell, SSND

First Profession July 31, 1945
Baltimore, Maryland

Mary Elizabeth Abell was born in Washington, D.C., to Robert Clifton Abell, a native of Kentucky, and Catherine Bernadette Brahm Abell, a native of Indiana. She was the middle child in a family of three girls; Ruth was older and Susan younger than she. SSNDs taught her at St. Theresa School in the District; she graduated in 1938 "with a desire to go to the Aspiranture" in Fort Lee, N.J.

In her autobiography, Betty does not comment on her four years at Holy Angels, saying only that she graduated on June 14, 1942, and "on the night of August 28 received the bonnet at Assumption Church [where she had been baptized] and left the next morning for the motherhouse" on Aisquith Street in Baltimore. Of her two years as a candidate and student, with good health except for having her tonsils removed, she wrote:

By all the religious exercises, but especially by the nearness to the Blessed Sacrament I have felt my vocation develop. It is my earnest desire to receive the Holy Habit and to become a School Sister of Notre Dame, the Order to which I feel God has called me.

When she was received into the novitiate, in 1944, Betty became Sister Mary Lea; she made first profession on July 31, 1945, and final profession on the same date in 1951. The College of Notre Dame of Maryland awarded her a B.A. in education in 1957, and Fordham University an M.A. in education in 1968.

During her six years of temporary profession, Sister Lea taught elementary grades at St. Peter School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She continued in elementary school for three years at St. Matthew in Baltimore, and then taught junior high grades at Our Lady of Hope in Sparrows Point, Baltimore County, for nine years, during the last three of which she served as principal.

Further obediences to junior high grades took her to Mount Calvary in Forrestville, Maryland, and to St. Margaret Mary in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. At the latter, she first taught and then served as principal until 1970.

For the next six years, Sister Lea mentored student teachers as a member of the Department of Education at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland. During this time, she enjoyed a brief period of sabbatical and personal renewal in the fall of 1973.

The next 31 years of Sister Lea's life were spent at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Siesta Key, Sarasota, Florida. Her roles in this faith community included director of religious education, pastoral associate, and minister to the homebound, sick, and elderly. Her legendary ministerial life at St. Michael came to a close in August 2007.

Sister Lea died peacefully at Maria Health Care Center, late on May 14. She had gone to the hospital on May 4 for congestive heart failure, and returned to the Villa on May 6 after a stroke that left her non-responsive.

(School Sisters of Notre Dame, Atlantic-Midwest Province)

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord!

Family Members





  • Created by: AnnieSings
  • Added: 15 May 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 52409632
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Sr Mary Lea “Betty” Abell (12 Jan 1924–14 May 2010), Find A Grave Memorial no. 52409632, citing Villa Maria Cemetery, Glen Arm, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA ; Maintained by AnnieSings (contributor 47031775) .