Mercy Sister Grace Nolan, after 41 years of service to the poor, sick and troubled of Atlantic City, has retired as coordinator of Catholic Charities’ Atlantic County Family Services and Community Center, which provides case management, emergency financial aid and crisis pregnancy services to more than 8,000 families and individuals.
Ministering in the shadow of the resort city’s casino glitz, Sister Grace became famous for her determination in assisting the poor, including families seeking food or the lonely living in nursing homes along the Boardwalk.
One of seven children, Sister Grace learned much of her sense of charity from her father, a grocer and member of the St. Vincent de Paul chapter of Trenton’s cathedral parish. She would often accompany him on trips when he would load up his truck and deliver food to the poor in New Jersey’s capital city.
Before coming to Catholic Charities, Sister Grace was a teacher at St. John’s School in Collingswood and principal at Holy Spirit High School, then in Atlantic City. Whether distributing excess furniture from a resort hotel or a can of soup, Sister Grace emphasized that charity should be dispensed with a smile.
A smile, she said in a 1985 interview in the Catholic Star Herald, “doesn’t cost you a cent.”
In 2004, Catholic Charities created the Sister Grace Nolan Award for Social Ministry, given annually to a person in the Diocese of Camden who personifies the pursuit of social justice.
Kevin Hickey, director of Catholic Charities, noted at the time that “Sister Grace is aptly named.”
“I think those who spend even a few moments with her feel they have received a little bit of grace. And that is really her sacrifice. She keeps giving a part of herself away to everyone she meets.”
Upon hearing about Sister Grace’s retirement, Hickey described her as, “A most remarkable woman and a most dedicated Servant of God, seeking Christ in all.”
Sister Grace is currently residing at the McAuley Hall Health Care Center in Watchung. She plans on returning to her community at Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish in Atlantic City as soon as possible.