Sister Marionella Graham, 86, died Sept. 15, 2019, at St. Joseph’s Provincial House, Latham. She had been a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet for 66 years.
Sister Marionella, the former Helen Mae Graham, was born in Syracuse on Nov. 13, 1932, daughter of the late John and Marian Cathers Graham. After graduating from St. John’s Catholic Academy, Syracuse, she entered the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Troy on March 19, 1953, and professed final vows on Aug. 15, 1960.
Sister Marionella received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from The College of Saint Rose and spent 58 years in the ministry of education as teacher and librarian in schools in the Albany and Syracuse dioceses. In the Syracuse Diocese, Sister Marionella served at St. Mary’s Home, St. Paul’s School, and St. Patrick’s School, all in Binghamton; St. Francis de Sales and Sacred Heart schools in Utica; St. Mary’s School, Oswego; St. Peter’s School, Rome; and Our Lady of Pompei and Blessed Sacred schools in Syracuse. In 2013, she retired to St. Joseph’s Provincial House where she had a knack for spreading joy to Sisters and staff alike.
Sister Marionella was a truly humble woman with an utter self-awareness, a deep sense of gratitude for God’s gifts, and an abiding commitment to focus on bringing compassion and respect to the world. Her life was characterized by love of family, faithfulness to friends and community, and generosity of spirit. Never afraid to speak up for her firmly held beliefs, Sister Marionella was honest and clear in her communication style but also appropriate, constructive, and kind. Open to new thoughts, ideas, and adventures, Sister Marionella simply did not recognize as part of her vocabulary the expression “But we have always done it that way.” In her ministry, her life in community, her friendships, and her day-to-day interactions, Sister Marionella was reliable, empathetic, forgiving, and fun. She leaves us a legacy of the beauty of focusing one’s energy on others, and she will be dearly missed.
Sister Marionella is survived by her beloved sisters Carol (Pat) Marra, Joan (Nick) Aragona, and Marilyn Mellone; her sisters-in-law, Eva and Gladys Graham; her brother-in-law, Tony (Carol) Emmi; many nieces and nephews and their families; and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. In addition to her parents, she was predeceased by her brothers, William and John Graham, and her sister Phyllis Emmi.
Sister Marionella’s Mass of Christian Burial was held Sept. 20 in the chapel of the Provincial House. Donations in Sister Marionella’s memory may be made to the Development Office, Sisters of St. Joseph, 385 Watervliet Shaker Road, Latham, N.Y., 12110.