Sister Mary Alice Chineworth–‘Oblate Sisters of Providence’; Beloved by So Many, Dies at 99

Memorial Mass on Sunday, July 16th at the Oblate Sisters’ Motherhouse in Halethorpe, Md

by: Ralph Moore Special to the AFRO
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(Baltimore-Updated 7/15/2017) Sister Mary Alice Chineworth, a towering spiritual figure in Baltimore’s Catholic community as a member of the Oblate Sisters at the St. Frances Academy for more than 75 years, died June 21. She was 99 years old.

Sister Mary Alice Chineworth (Courtesy Photo)

Sister Mary Alice was born  Innocent Victoria Chineworth in Rock Island, Ill.,  on July 16, 1917.  She was the second daughter of four children born to African-American shoe repair businessman and White, German telephone operator, Alexander and Victoria Chineworth. She decided at age 4 she would like to become a nun.  Later as a teenager, she was informed by a nun that their order did not accept women of color.

Heartbroken, Sister Mary Alice researched and discovered the Oblate Sisters of Providence.  She entered the convent of the Oblates in 1936 at the St. Frances Academy Convent at 501 E. Chase St. in Baltimore. During her over 75 years as an Oblate, Sister Alice served as superior general, publisher of the Oblates’ monthly magazine and president of their Mount Providence Junior College.  She was deeply involved in many fundraising projects for the education of children in need.

Sister Mary Alice counted among her friends and confidants: Dr. Camille Cosby from whom Sister Alice secured a $2,200,000 gift for St. Frances Academy in 2005; Estella Marquetti, who is the mother of broadcast journalist Soledad O’Brien and Adm. Steve Rochon, former chief usher of the White House during the first Obama administration. Yet, she was loved by everyday people, too, for her kindness, her great mind and her easy charm.  

Sister Mary Alice has donated her body to science.

On Sunday, July 16, 2017, on what would have been Sister Mary Alice’s 100th birthday, there will be a memorial mass at noon in the chapel of the Oblate Sisters’ Motherhouse.  Preceding mass at 11 a.m. will be a family hour and following mass will be a reception.  The public is invited to celebrate Sister Mary Alice Chineworth’s life. The Motherhouse (Mount Providence) is located at 701 Gun Road in Halethorpe.  For further information, call the Motherhouse at 410-242-8500 or Ralph Moore at 443-255-5600.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Sister Mary Alice Chineworth Scholarship Fund for deserving students at St. Frances Academy. Contributions can be mailed to St. Frances Academy at 501 E. Chase St., Baltimore, MD 21202.

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