Obituary: Sister Mary Jo D’Amico, SNDdeN
Sister Mary Jo D’Amico, SNDdeN
May 26, 1931 – January 12, 2021
“You do more good by training one good teacher than by looking after a hundred boarders.”
(Saint Julie Billiart, p. 67, To Heaven on Foot)
Mary Josephine D’Amico was the oldest child and only daughter in a close-knit Italian family. Her parents made sure she and her brothers were raised with Italian customs, celebrated Italian feasts, and had a sense of pride in their Italian heritage. Church was also a central part of family life in the D’Amico household. Mary Jo’s prayer life, including her devotion to the Eucharist, and her concern for people in need were rooted in values first learned from her parents and the Franciscan Sisters who taught her at St. Anthony Grade school. At Julienne High School, Mary Jo met the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and came to appreciate Saint Julie Billiart, their foundress. She loved her experience at Julienne and was a proud and active member of the Julienne Alumnae Association.
It was a desire to help others and grow closer to God that led Mary Jo to enter religious life. While she appreciated the Franciscans, she opted for the stricter life of the Sisters of Notre Dame and submitted her entrance application May 6, 1949. However, she was not able to enter the community immediately. In the meantime, she worked as a telephone operator. Mary Jo returned to Julienne in September to work as school secretary while attending night classes at the University of Dayton. She finally entered the community on February 4, 1950. Mary Jo honored both of her parents by taking the religious name Sister Frances Michele by which she was known until 1968 when she reverted to a shortened form of her baptismal name. With other novices, Mary Jo prepared to teach. She began her teaching career in early 1953, and quickly became an expert in language arts.
Mary Jo loved teaching and was ahead of her time as she focused on individual learning styles and inter-relationships between different parts of the curriculum. She was a good teacher and, as her experience in the classroom increased, she discovered she had a knack for helping other teachers. Others had already discovered Mary Jo’s organizational and administrative skills. By 1959, besides her work in the classroom, Mary Jo had responsibility for supervising her peers and managing the operations of the school building. By 1963, she was conducting in-services for her peers. It wasn’t long before her ministry shifted to teaching teachers. In 1970 she began working for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati as the K-12 Curriculum Coordinator for Communication Arts. Mary Jo was responsible for developing and implementing curriculum in 163 elementary and secondary schools. She also gave regular in-service programs for parochial and public school teachers. Mary Jo would continue providing in-service programs focused on Understanding Learning Styles and Relating These Styles to Teaching Styles for Effective Teaching and Lesson Planning through 1999. Active in many professional organizations Mary Jo served as a Curriculum evaluator for the National Council of Teachers of English and served first as a member and then chair of the Interracial Council for Teachers in Dayton.
After completing her doctoral work, Mary Jo began ministering at the college level. She began at Central State University where she was the Director of Freshmen English. The following year she taught in the Communications Department at the University of Dayton. When an opening came up in UD’s Department of Education, Mary Jo applied. She spent the next 15 years as a lecturer and supervisor of student teachers. Mary Jo taught not only on the main campus in Dayton, but also at satellite campuses serving non-traditional students. She also leant her administrative skills to the diversifying department and responded to invitations to serve on school evaluation committees around the country.
Mary Jo’s ministry shifted in focus to adults in need of literacy skills and completion of GED requirements. She joined other Sisters of Notre Dame as a staff member in the Alliance for Work Based Education (AWE) site at the University of Dayton. Mary Jo helped access needs of enrollees, served as a tutor, and wrote grants to raise funding for materials and salaries. The rest of her years in active ministry would focus on adult literacy as, besides the AWE program at the University, Mary Jo taught English to refugees through Catholic Charities, tutored at the Marriott based AWE program and at St. Mary Center. The National Adult Education Honor Society of the Miami Valley Literacy Council honored her as an outstanding volunteer in 2006.
Besides her ‘formal’ ministry, Mary Jo took care of her mother in her later years. She also served as a Eucharistic Minister for many years at St. Anthony Parish making weekly visits to bring Communion to residents in nursing homes and parishioners who were homebound. Mary Jo spent time praying with each one and listening to them. Often she served as a bridge, especially to the homebound, to get them the little extra help they needed to remain in their homes.
In community, Mary Jo shared her skills as cook, seamstress and sacristan. She participated in Dayton area gatherings of all kinds, appreciating opportunities to pray together, deepen in faith together and sometimes just play together. Mary Jo enjoyed many kinds of needle craft, photography, the out of doors, and a good discussion. She appreciated time spent with friends and, even when she didn’t have a lot to say, loved listening to experiences and ideas of others. When she joined the Health Center community at Mt. Notre Dame, her sewing skills were applied to sewing labels on clothing for Sisters living in Cuvilly. Mary Jo enjoyed walking the grounds in good weather and the hallways when the weather wasn’t so good. Words cannot express how much she appreciated simply being able to spend time in Chapel in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. Her prayerfulness was the characteristic most often lifted up when Sisters described her. When COVID-19 restrictions prevented her from visited Chapel, Mary Jo could be found in her room, eyes fixed on the Tabernacle seen through closed circuit TV. Her prayers for each of us, and for our world, continued.
As her Sisters, friends, co-workers and family celebrate her life, we give thanks for the many ways Mary Jo made God’s goodness known to each of us, and to all whose life she touched. We know her prayers continue for each of us. We pray with Mary Jo “Ah! How good is the good God!”
Born May 26, 1931 in Dayton, Ohio
Parents: Michael D’Amico (born in Duronia, Italy) and Frances Filoso (born in Dayton, Ohio)
Siblings: Nicholas D’Amico, Thomas D’Amico, Michael D’Amico
Baptized June 21, 1931 at the Church of the Holy Angels, Dayton, Ohio
Confirmed November 27, 1938 at St. Anthony Church, Dayton, Ohio
Entered February 4, 1950
First Profession: August 13, 1952
Final Profession: August 13, 1957
St. Anthony Grade School, Dayton, Ohio, 1945
Julienne High School, Dayton, Ohio, 1949
Bachelor of Science in Education from Our Lady of Cincinnati College, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1960
Master of Education in Curriculum & Reading, Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1970
Doctorate of Philosophy in Education Administration from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, 1978
Master of Education in Guidance & Counseling, Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio 1980
1953-1954 Mt. Notre Dame Academy, Reading, Ohio
1954-1957 Summit Country Day School, Cincinnati, Ohio
1957-1960 St. Helen School, Dayton, Ohio
1960-1963 Holy Family School, Dayton, Ohio
1963-1970 Immaculate Conception School, Dayton, Ohio
1970-1976 Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio
1975-1978 Miami University, Oxford, Ohio
1978-1979 Central State University, Wilberforce, Ohio
1979-1996 University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio
1996-2007 Alliance for Work Based Education, University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio
2005-2007: Catholic Charities, Dayton Ohio
2007-2009 Alliance for Work Based Education, Marriott Site, Dayton, Ohio
2009-2011 GED Tutor, St. Mary Center, Dayton, Ohio
2012-2021 Ministry of Prayer and Presence, Mount Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio