Sister Esther Del Duca, who was born in Camden and taught at St. Peter School, Merchantville, 1988-90, died Monday, Nov. 28, at St. Joseph Hall, Villa Walsh, Morristown. She was 96.
She was the aunt of Father John Del Duca, senior priest of Our Lady of Hope Parish, Blackwood. He will celebrate the Mass of Christian Burial on Saturday, Dec. 3, 11 a.m., at Villa Walsh. There will be a viewing Friday, Dec. 2, 2-6 p.m., and Dec. 3, 9-11 a.m. Interment will take place following the liturgy at Ave Maria Cemetery.
In 1966 Sister Esther was elected the general superior of the Religious Teachers Filippini, giving her jurisdiction in Italy and the United States and foundations in Brazil, Canada, England, Ireland and Switzerland. The first native-born American to lead the order, she convoked a special chapter to update the rules and constitution of the institute in the spirit of Vatican II.
In 1969, Sister Esther accompanied the first group of sisters to Adigrat, Ethiopia, to open a mission. In 1969 she received 58 sisters from the Maestre Pie Filippini Diocese of Montefiascone into the Pontifical Institute of the Maestre Pie Filippini.
When her term as general superior ended in 1972, Sister Esther went to Brazil, where she served for three years. After several years in education in the United States, she served for six years as general councilor, beginning in 1982. In 1987 she accompanied the first sisters to India, where a foundation was established.
After more teaching duties in the United States, including in Merchantville, Sister Esther served as superior at Mother of the Church, Newport, County Mayo, Ireland, and then spent two years in England. She returned to the United States in 1996, where she served as an archival assistant and Formation Team member. She retired to St. Joseph in 2009.
In a statement announcing her death, the Religious Teachers Filippini said, “Throughout her religious life, Sister Esther has proved to be a fine teacher, a capable administrator, a wise counselor, a spiritual leader, a gifted artist and an exemplary religious.”
Sister Esther is survived by nieces and nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews. She was predeceased by her parents Domenico and Antonietta Di Ielsi, her sisters Rose Madden and Millie Ventura, her brothers Dr. Vincent, Dr. John and Joseph.
In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Sister Esther can be sent to St. Joseph Hall Infirmary, c/o Sister Betty Jean Takacs, MPF, Provincial Superior, Villa Walsh, 455 Western Ave., Morristown, NJ 07960-4928.