By Crystal Teresa Wolfe
Sister Nellie Annunciata Daquel, MUCP was a Filipino native who made her home on earth at St. Sebastian’s in Woodside. I was honored to be among the last graduating class of RCIA in 2018 with Sister Nellie as our teacher. So please forgive me if I don’t use all the proper Catholic terms. As a newly initiated Catholic who converted from Protestantism and still has much to learn, I will simply speak from my heart.
Sister Nellie belonged to the Missionarie Unitas In Christo Ad Patrem. She was the only U.S. nun in this order until she recruited another sister. Clearly, this great lady was viewed as very special by the Vatican itself.
Sister Nellie was a divine presence of shining light on this earth. Her beautiful smile radiated with power and love for our living God. She taught the children in St Sebastian Catholic Academy, as well as the adults in RCIA – with joy, kindness, caring, a watchful eye and a guiding hand. She taught me, and many others, how to pray the Hail Mary and Novena prayers. She brought me into the Immaculate Conception Prayer Group in Astoria – among wonderful people who helped care for Sister Nellie in the last few months of her life, as her body prepared for its eternal rest.
She was an ever-present pillar of strength in our community with an unwavering devotion to the faith and touched the lives of countless souls with her reverence and grace. All who knew her, loved her. I was privileged that Sister Nellie shared her story with me. We didn’t have enough time together for her to finish telling me why she decided to drastically change her life 10 years ago, transforming from a high-powered international business woman, into a Roman Catholic nun at St Sebastian’s. But in the last 10 years, the work she has done for God, the lives she has changed and the mountains she has moved by her boundless trust and faith in the Lord, is immeasurable.
Though slight in stature at about 4’8,” she lived up to her name, “Daquel,” which means “the Great.” She was indeed, “Nellie, the Great.” And for me, she was more than Sister Nellie, she was Mother Nellie.
Mother Nellie showed me and all who knew and loved her just what motherhood could be. For being a mother is about more than giving life, it is about nurturing life as a spiritual guide. It is about seeing all people through the eyes of God, about holding in our hearts the love God has for all of His children – regardless of age, race or background.
If we belong to the family of God, then we will meet Sister Nellie again one day. We will rejoice with her forever in eternity. Rest in peace our beloved sister, teacher, mother and friend. Until we meet again where there will no more tears and no more goodbyes.
Wolfe is a recent convert to Catholicism and a parishioner at St. Sebastian’s, Woodside.