Tribute to Sister Teresa McElwee

Jan 22, 2021


Please pray for the repose of the soul of Sister Teresa McElwee, SNDdeN, who died peacefully on Thursday, January 7 at 5:00 p.m. supported by loved ones in song and prayer.

Sister Teresa McElwee was born October 22, 1929 in Chester, PA, one of five daughters to parents John and Helena McElwee. The call to ministry ran deep in her Irish family roots. “Both of my parents are from Ireland, and they instilled in us service to the Church. At a retreat shortly before high school graduation, I asked God to give me direction. By the end of the 4 o’clock Benediction, I had my answer.”

She entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in August 1947. After spending her early years teaching elementary and secondary schools and college in the Baltimore, Washington, D.C., North Carolina, and Philadelphia areas, she moved to Florida in 1973. There she accepted the challenge of establishing Justice and Peace Commissions for the Diocese of Orlando in various parishes.

In 1977, she became the director of the newly formed non-profit Justice and Peace Office and continued to serve in that position until her retirement in the late 1990’s. Throughout those years, she continued working collaboratively with Sisters Ann Kendrick, Gail Grimes, and Cathy Gorman, the four Sisters, affectionately known as the “Apopka nuns”, on social justice, equality and solutions for the poor. In 1977, she became the director of the newly established non-profit Justice and Peace Office.

Along with others, she developed two different non-profit organizations, Homes in Partnership, Inc. and the Community Trust Federal Credit Union. Filled with enthusiasm for God’s working poor and her social justice ministry, Sister McElwee founded the Apopka Family Learning Center in 2001. “We felt a need to reach out to children and families. The new center would provide opportunities for children and parents to connect with one another.”

Sister Teresa was a founding member of the Sisters Council and remained active from the time she arrived in the Diocese, and through her presidency. She loved to read, write poetry, and travel.

In 2008 she received the Papal Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice honor in recognition of her personal commitment and outstanding service within the ecclesial community. “I’ve never doubted God’s love, His strong arm guiding me.”  She also received numerous other awards, such as the Humanitarian Award from the National Conference of Community and Justice, Central Floridian of the Year in 2008 from the Orlando Sentinel, and an Honorary Degree from Rollins College in 2008.

In memory of Sister Teresa McElwee, please pray for God’s justice upon the earth; offer an act of kindness for one of the meek and lowly; and/or make a financial contribution to the Hope Community Center, 1016 N. Park Avenue, Apopka, FL 32712 and notate in memory of Sister Teresa McElwee, SNDdeN.


Eternal rest, grant unto her O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon her. 
May she rest in peace.  Amen.


The Funeral Mass for Sister Teresa McElwee will be held at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, 834 South Orange Blossom Trail Apopka, FL on Friday, January 22, 2021 at 4 p.m. Due to COVID restrictions, in-person attendance will be limited. Face masks are required during Mass. The Mass will also be livestreamed for those wishing to attend virtually.

Click here to join the livestream

Click here for the worship aid


News articles

Enslavement of people can be subtle – February 13, 1976

‘Call to Action’ Conference – October 29, 1976

Notre Dame students take the ‘plunge’ –  January 21, 1977

Sisters return from Nicaragua with warning message for U.S. – August 8, 1986

Nuns: ‘It’s always about people’ – November 7, 2002

Orlando nuns receive honorary doctorates from Rollins College – May 26, 2006

Faith-filled family inspires woman to sisterhood – August 3-16, 2007

Apopka nuns receive recognition for helping the voiceless –  Jan 18-24, 2008


Donations may be sent to HOPE CommUnity Center or 1016 N Park Ave Apopka FL 32712.