IN 1965 PHOTO, legacy donor Mary Ella Downey (in green suit), is flanked by her brother, Frank, and sister, Mabel Tucker. The photo was taken when Mary Ella’s eldest sister, Mary Angela, at right, a Good Shepherd Sister, was allowed her first home visit after the Second Vatican Council. Photo courtesy of Mary Ella’s niece, Angela Tucker.
Back in the days before the Internet, there was a teacher who not only believed in Catholic Missions In Canada’s work but also took out a life insurance policy to help future missionary work
In 1942, Mary Ella Downey, a teacher at Blessed Sacrament School in
Fast-forward June 18, 2009. Winnie Quinn, Catholic Missions In Canada’s charitable gifts manager, receives a phone call from a life insurance company about a legacy gift from a certain Mary Ella Downey. “They asked if we knew whether Mary Ella was still living—she would have been 105,” Winnie recounts. Since Catholic Missions In Canada didn’t have a record on Mary Ella, Winnie began the search on the unknown donor.
“Blessed Sacrament is no longer in existence so we got in touch with
This was followed by a call to Hinnegan-Peseski Funeral Homes which serves the Catholic community there. In searching past records, Dan Peseski told CMIC that Mary Ella Downey, who was born on June 29, 1904, in Chatham, Ontario, had died in 1995. When Winnie tracked Angela Tucker, Mary Ella’s niece, Angela filled in more missing pieces about her aunt.
Mary Ella was one of five children of Mary Angela MacGregor and John Downey. She had two older brothers and two sisters. The eldest sister, Mary Angela, was a Good Shepherd nun, and the second sister, Angela’s mother, Mabel, married in 1942. Ella, who taught school with the Ursuline Sisters, remained single.
Angela describes her aunt as “a dedicated teacher, devoted Catholic, generous and artistic, and thoughtful to her family, friends and those in need.”
Ella began teaching at 17 at
Angela Tucker remembers her aunt telling her over the years about a life insurance policy that she took for Church Extension, but Angela didn’t know the name of the insurance company, and didn’t know any other details about it until Winnie called. She is very pleased to know that Catholic Missions In Canada will now receive the proceeds.