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Sister Teresa Alexander: El Salvador Missioner

The educator and parish minister died on New Year's Day.

Sister Teresa Eileen Alexander, MM, a missioner in El Salvador when Maryknoll Sisters Ita Ford and Maura Clarke were murdered in 1980, died peacefully on January 1, 2013, at Maryknoll Sisters Residential Care IV. She was 86 years old and had been a Maryknoll Sister for 67 years.

 Born on June 8, 1926, in Yellow Springs, OH, to Charles M. and Beatrice Heider Alexander, Sister Terry, as she was more familiarly known,  was raised in St. Paul’s Parish, Archdiocese of Cincinnati, and graduated from Bryan High School, Bryan, OH, before entering  Maryknoll Sisters on September 6, 1945, at its motherhouse at Maryknoll, NY.

 Primarily an educator and parish minister, Sister Terry specialized in teaching religion, though she also taught commercial subjects.  After five years assisting with production of “The Field Afar”, the magazine now known simply as “Maryknoll”, Sister Terry was sent to Panama, where she taught English, history, typing, and bookkeeping at Collegio San Antonio in Puerto Anmulles from 1960-1965. She then taught religion and commercial subjects at Colegio San Vincente, Ancon, Panama, from 1965-1972.

 In 1973 she was sent to Boqueron, Panama, where she worked for seven years in pre-evangelization before being assigned to El Salvador, where she lived and worked among the people of La Libertad and Santa Ana during the height of violence in that nation from 1980-1981. Reflecting in 2010 on that experience, Sister Terry, a consistently kind and gentle person throughout her life, described it as “rather scary. We (the Sisters) stayed because we felt God had sent us to be especially with the poor, just to be able to walk with the people, to accompany them. As Sister Ita often said, ‘We live with the questions now, knowing the answers will come when needed.’ We took the risk – not to leave the poor, especially the women and children who could not leave.”

 Late in 1981, she was sent to Guatemala, where she concentrated her efforts on evangelization before being sent, two years later, to Mexico, where she served in pastoral ministry among the people of Lazaro Cardenas, Merida and Yucatan, from 1983-1988.

 Sister Terry returned to El Salvador in 1991, serving as a parish minister and volunteer worker in Santa Cruz and Soyapango through 2006.  In 2007, she retired to the Maryknoll Sisters Center near Ossining, where she assisted on a part-time basis in the Treasury office until her retirement in 2011. A few months before her death, Sister Terry requested that her body by given to science.

 One of nine siblings, four of whom predeceased her, Sister Terry is survived by two sisters, Patricia Alexander of Yellow Springs and Clara Ann Belval of Hyde Park, VT, and two brothers, James and Jack, both of Yellow Springs.

 A Vesper service will be held for Sister Terry on Tuesday, January 8, 2013, at 4:15 p.m., followed by a Memorial Liturgy at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, January 9, 2013, both to be held in the Annunciation Chapel at the Maryknoll Sisters Center in Ossining.  Arrangements were entrusted to in Ossining.

James Adnaraf January 04, 2013 at 11:46 PM
There are so many elderly sisters, and so few young ones. When I have been to their Fall International Bazaar, the age of these sisters has really struck me. Sister Teresa Alexander is a vanishing breed, and it is very sad. RIP
Susan Palmer January 09, 2013 at 10:04 PM
Thank you for your kind words, James. Sister Terry was a special woman indeed. We are encouraged that we do have other young ones who recently joined our number. I'll be sure to post a story about one of them soon :) (I'm the communications manager at Maryknoll Sisters!)
James Adnaraf January 11, 2013 at 01:04 PM
Growing up in the Ossining area, and then spending time in some foreign countries, I have gotten to know Maryknoll quite well. I look forward to reading about new sisters. About ten years ago, I was on an airplane, headed to Miami (and then to El Salvador), and the passenger next to me was a Maryknoll Sister of Bolivian origin, now working in Asia. You can likely figure out who she is, but I am not name dropping here.

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