Sister Mary Denise Clifford died on May 2, 2023 at Chestnut Hill Hospital in Philadelphia. The Mass of Resurrection was offered at Saint Joseph Villa, Flourtown, Pennsylvania on May 8, 2023.
Mary Denise lived with her parents and three sisters in what she called “close living” in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Morton, Pennsylvania. She attended the parish grade school and graduated from Notre Dame Academy, Moylan in 1966. While in high school Denise enjoyed writing for the school newspaper. It was in high school too that she first felt drawn to religious life. She considered entering the Franciscan Sisters in Aston, Pennsylvania. God however had other plans. Her parents asked her to wait a year, and so she taught at Saint Kevin School in Springfield. There she met the Sisters of Saint Joseph. She was impressed by their energy and spirit and entered the community in 1962.
Denise’s life was about building relationships. The group with whom she entered knew her as the “heart of the party.” She actively communicated with others and was a link in the lives of those with whom she ministered. For more than forty years Denise served in schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Several were in the Delaware county area where she grew up.
Whether she was teacher, principal or receptionist, Denise knew that listening to people’s words and welcoming their presence were important practices to follow. She was most attentive to the needs of others. Denise was exceptionally diligent in the practice of writing thank you notes. She not only sent thank you notes by mail; she also delighted in texting her visitors so that they would receive her thank you message before they arrived home!
In her reflection on the life of Sister Mary Denise, Sister Maureen Erdlen quoted Victor Frankel, “To live you must choose. To love you must encounter. To grow you must suffer.” She also invited us to honor Sister Denise’s legacy by committing to the importance of encounter: “. . . to pay attention to that face to face, eye to eye, heart to heart presence that she valued so much. Denise, we are truly grateful for your witness and example. May you experience what that last thank you note said: the best is yet to be!”