Friday, December 15, 2017
News Roundup

Sister Susan McGillicuddy: a famous family name, a quiet life of service

ST. PETERSBURG — She lived in the convent on the grounds of St. Anthony's Hospital. Hospital staffers regularly saw her serving Communion to patients.

Worldly pleasure for Sister Susan McGillicuddy might mean a slice of pizza or a glass of wine or taking in a Tampa Bay Rays game. She had taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

But not many Catholic sisters come from famous families steeped in politics and baseball. Sister Susan was the granddaughter of Connie Mack, a Hall of Fame baseball manager; the sister of former U.S. Sen. Connie Mack III; and aunt of former U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV. Three ancestors on her mother's side (a great-grandfather, a grandfather and a stepgrandfather) were Texas congressmen.

Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle weren't just household names but family friends.

Her parents had left their children free to pursue their own paths. It was just as well, because Susan seemed wedded to the lifestyle she had chosen so long ago.

Sister Susan, a quiet force for giving at St. Anthony's Hospital Foundation, died Monday at St. Joseph's Hospital after heart surgery. She was 74.

Connie Mack III called his sister a "peaceful soul" who took to heart an admonition by St. Francis of Assisi that effective preaching did not always require a lot of words.

"I think that Susan's life was in fact carrying out that commandment," Mack said.

"It's the importance of a presence," Sister Susan told a newspaper three years ago about her ministerial work. "It's not so much what to say. … You can say nothing and somebody will say you helped."

Around St. Anthony's, Sister Susan was a "calming, reassuring presence," said Bill Ulbricht, the hospital's president.

"When she came into a room, there was a certain amount of reverence she received from every member of our organization," Ulbricht said.

Founded in 1859 in Allegany, N.Y., the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany have been running hospitals since 1883. The sisters founded St. Anthony's as a mission in 1931 during the Depression, then opened St. Joseph's in Tampa in 1934. Both hospitals are now managed by BayCare Health System.

Susan Rita McGillicuddy was born in 1939 in Philadelphia, the eldest of eight children. Her father, Connie Mack Jr., was a coach and executive of the Philadelphia Athletics. (Her grandfather Cornelius McGillicuddy preferred the sobriquet Connie Mack, as have Connie Macks down the line.)

"We went to the ballpark all the time," Connie Mack III said. "Our mom taught us to keep score since we were 5 years old."

The family moved to Fort Myers in 1951. Susan attended Catholic schools and joined the Congregation of Franciscan Sisters of Allegany in 1957. She professed final vows in 1965, then taught at Catholic schools.

She started working in hospitals in 1981, the year after her mother had undergone a mastectomy. She joined the St. Anthony's community in 1991 and served in a variety of functions, including chaplain. Later, the hospital's foundation asked her to become involved in fundraising.

"She was persuasive," said Robert Sherman, the foundation's executive director. A key donation included $250,000 from her brothers Connie, the former senator, and Dennis, a cable television company founder and philanthropist. The money helped establish the Susan Sheppard McGillicuddy Breast Center, named after their mother, who died in 1997. She stepped down in 2011 but continued to volunteer, starting a website to take prayer requests from strangers.

The foundation brought the brothers back in February to watch Sister Susan receive its Helen D. Roberts Philanthropy Award. Connie Mack said the award was presented after a litany of glowing attributes, and took his sister by surprise when she was finally named.

"Her reaction was, 'This is wrong. I don't deserve it.'

"That to me shows her humility, the way she led her life."

Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437 on Twitter.

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