Sister Mary Paul Lee, 75, Oblate Sisters treasurer


Sister Mary Paul Lee, a retired educator and treasurer of her Roman Catholic religious order, died of congestive heart failure Dec. 1 at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. She was 75 and lived at her order's Arbutus motherhouse.

The granddaughter of a slave owned by Jesuit priests at Georgetown University, she was born Susan Grace Lee in Philadelphia. She related her experiences there as a black high school basketball player on a predominantly white team in a 2002 issue of U.S. Catholic. While playing on her school's varsity team, she was not permitted to travel to away games in Baltimore.

In the article, she recalled a letter sent to the school: "Negroes are not allowed, even as spectators, in our gymnasium." As a result, she said, she stayed home and cried.

She entered Baltimore's Oblate Sisters of Providence in 1947, when no Philadelphia order would accept her because of her race. She received her religious name three years later and earned a bachelor's degree from the College of Notre Dame.

She taught math and science at Cardinal Gibbons Institute in Ridge in St. Mary's County, and in Baltimore at St. Frances Academy and St. Pius V-Charles Hall Middle School.

In the late 1970s and 1980s, she was chairwoman of the Baltimore Archdiocese's Urban Commission.

"I worked in many ethnic neighborhoods - with the Polish and Italians, where people just didn't deal with black people, so some were very threatened by me. But when I retired, each of the churches in those neighborhoods sent me a photo album and thanked me for what I had done for their church and their school," she said in 2002.

In 1981, she was named treasurer general of her order, a post she held for 13 years.

From 1996 to 2003 she was a community relations associate at Mercy Medical Center and set up health and nutrition programs in poor neighborhoods.

She received numerous honors, including the 1979 Andrew White Medal from Loyola College for service to fellow Marylanders, the Cardinal Gibbons Medal in honor of her many years of community service and the Baltimore Archdiocese's Martin Luther King Jr. Award.

A Mass of Christian burial was offered yesterday.

Survivors include two nieces and four nephews.

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