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Sister Mary Brendan Conlon, OSU, served in hometown of Cumberland

Sister Mary Brendan Conlon, a Cumberland native who served in her hometown, elsewhere in Appalachia, and in Central America, died July 16 at Nazareth Home-Clifton in Louisville, Ky. She was 93.

She graduated from the former Ursuline Academy in Cumberland in 1945, and a year later entered the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville. She professed her final vows July 4, 1951.

According to an obituary provided by the Ursuline Sisters, both her father, Thomas Frederick Conlon, and a brother, Thomas Francis Conlon, served as mayors of Cumberland.

Sister Brendan earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from Creighton University in, Omaha, Neb., and a master’s degree in theology from Jesuit Wheeling University in West Virginia. She also studied at Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisc.; Duquesne University, Pittsburgh; the University of Iowa, Iowa City; and Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash.

In her hometown, Sister Brendan taught at Bishop Walsh High School, 1971-78, and Ss. Peter and Paul School, 1979-81. She also taught in Louisville, Omaha and Morgantown, W.Va. In addition, while in Morgantown, she was a campus minister at West Virginia University’s St. John Parish.

In 1982, she became director of Christian Help, Inc., in Morgantown. In 1994 she founded Christian Help, Inc., in Kermit, W.Va., and served that ministry to the needy until her retirement in 2010.

The Jenco Foundation in 2006 awarded her the Community Leader Initiative Award for her “visionary leadership in Appalachia.” In 2008 the Catholic Committee of Appalachia awarded her the Bishop Sullivan Award for “26 years of working for the voiceless and economically poor of Appalachia.” In 2009, she was the recipient of the Dr. William and Budd Bell Award from the Community Transportation Association of America for establishing accessible transportation “to seniors and low-income residents of Mingo County.” The county had no public transportation.

In the late 1980s, Sister Brendan was a Witness of Peace delegate in Managua, Nicaragua, for eight months. She also took part in many protests for justice and peace, including civil disobedience, both in Washington, D.C., and at the annual gathering of several thousand at Fort Benning, Ga., a movement committed to the closing of the School of the Americas.

Sister Brendan also served her Ursuline Sisters in leadership, 1968-70, and as director of communication, 1969-71. In retirement, she volunteered at several social agencies in Louisville.

A funeral Mass was to be offered July 26 in the Motherhouse Chapel in Louisville.  

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