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Sister Mary of the Cross (Nancy Antoinette) Heafy

December 24, 1871 - January 22, 1961   |   Passed On

Nancy Antoinette Heafy was born in Churchville, Iowa to Catherine Carley and Daniel Heafy on December 24, 1871. She had two brothers, John and Joseph, and two sisters, Alice and Marguerite.

Nancy entered the Sisters of the Humility of Mary when their first motherhouse was located on Court Street in Ottumwa, Iowa on the feast of Our Lady, December 8, 1897. She was received on March 25, 1898 and was given the religious name of Sister Mary of the Cross. She made her first vows on August 7, 1900. Her classmates were Sister M. Visitation De Cook and S.M. Annunciation Mahon. Mother Mary Joseph Galvin was the Superior General at the time of her profession.  Final profession took place on July 20, 1927.

Sister was always quiet, unassuming and a very prayerful person, generous to a fault. For over 50 years she was engaged in domestic service at St. Vincent Home and St. Ambrose College in Davenport. In the six years before she died, she lived at St. Joseph Hospital, Ottumwa. The student nurses of the hospital always remarked on her cheerfulness, appreciation for the smallest care given, and her prayerfulness. The rosary was her constant companion.

As the story is told, there was a time that sister picked up a powder puff from the floor at St. Ambrose just as one of the priests came along. Showing Father what she picked up she said she thought it was a pen wiper. Father answered, "You're so innocent, sister, you'll go straight to heaven!"


St. Mary, Marshalltown

St. Vincent Home, Davenport

St. Ambrose College, Davenport (1904-1938)

St. Joseph Hospital, Ottumwa




Hope this finds you all well. I am hoping to find some help in a matter of ancestry. I had a great grand aunt by the name of Nancy Heafy. She was born in Iowa in 1872 and family documents showing her joining the Sisters of Humility in 1897. She took the name, Sister Mary of the Cross. I recently found a prayer book gifted to her sister, my great grandmother in 1932 with her name inscribed. It was my understanding that she passed away at an older age there at the convent.

My husband and I are traveling to Iowa in May to pay tribute to relatives who have passed. I was wondering if it would be possible to find information about Sister Mary of the Cross and to see if there is a gravesite to visit. We are in our early 70’s and I’m trying to leave my daughters with the fullest amount of family information possible. Thank you very much for reading this, and for any help you might be able to give.

Warm regards,

Jan Cornell-Brovold

Dearest Lisa,

I have no words to tell you the joy your search has given me. Thank you so much. I will be able to visit her grave in May when I’m in Iowa, and I’m so grateful for that. To look into the face of the woman whose gifted prayer book to my great grandmother I read each morning is heartwarming to me. In my ancestor research, the picture of my second great grandfather, Sister Mary’s father seems one of a very good man who raised wonderful children... all of them kind, generous and with a little touch of dear Irish humor. Thank you again. This means so much to me!

My very warm regards,