Sister Lillian Connolly
Sister Lillian Marie Connolly, RSM, 79, died Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018, at Hallmar Care Center in Cedar Rapids after a brief illness. Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 2, at the Sacred Heart Chapel by the Rev. Tony Adawu. Burial will be at the Mount Calvary Cemetery in Cedar Rapids. Friends may call from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 1, at the chapel with a wake service at 6:30 p.m. Arrangements are with Teahen Funeral Home.
Sister Lillian and her twin sister, Vivian, were born April 3, 1938, to Louis and Jessie (Dolphin) Connolly in Cascade, Iowa. She entered the Detroit Regional Community of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas in 1958 and later transferred to the Cedar Rapids Regional Community in 2001. Sister Lillian was a vowed member of the Sisters of Mercy for 60 years.
Sister Lillian earned her BSN degree from Mercy College of Detroit, Mich., (1964); an advanced certificate in occupational therapy from St. Catherine's College in St. Paul, Minn., (1971); and an M.S. degree in administration from the University of Illinois (1981). She completed the Mind Therapies Course from Viterbo College in La Crosse, Wis. (1996) and the Massage Therapy Program from Carlson College of Massage Therapy, Anamosa (2001).
Initially, she was a nurse ministering in several Michigan and Iowa hospitals. Upon her community's request, she became an occupational therapist; then, with several colleagues, designed and implemented the Occupational Therapist Degree Program(s) at Chicago State College in Illinois, Cincinnati Technical College in Ohio, Misericordia College in Dallas, Pa., and Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.
Later, Sister Lillian became a massage therapist and offered pain management therapies for 10 years. With a quest for lifelong learning, she prepared herself in an emerging field of mind-body-spirit care and provided contributed services for Sisters in three different religious retirement centers, including the Sisters at Sacred Heart Life Center in Cedar Rapids. Additionally, she served as adjunct faculty to Mount Mercy University, where she taught a course on complementary holistic therapies for eight years. She was a frequent presenter for the beginning parish nurse program, Mercy Medical Center, Cedar Rapids. In 2009, Sister Lillian completed a sabbatical program at the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas.
Most recently, Sister Lillian initiated a sewing group in Dubuque, where more than 6,000 pillowcase dresses were made for women and girls in Haiti, Sudan, Tanzania and other underserved countries. With a natural talent for cooking and Mercy's charism of hospitality, Sister Lillian consistently reached out to many in moments of need, including her community, friends and family.
In addition to the Sisters of Mercy, Sister Lillian is survived by her twin sister, Vivian Steffen of Dubuque; sister, Janell Then of Epworth; two sisters-in-law, Jean Connolly of Dubuque and Margaret Lehmann of Farley; and 24 nieces and nephews and their families.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Louis and Jessie; her brothers, Jerimiah Connolly, Patrick Connolly, Vince Connolly and Msgr. Leon Connolly; sisters, Sister Nancy Connolly, RSM, and Verla Lehman; brothers-in-law, Clarence Lehmann, Tom Then and Donald Steffen; nephews, Terry Then and Andrew Connolly; and a grandniece, Kristi Nurre.
Memorials may be sent to the Sisters of Mercy, 1125 Prairie Dr. NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402.