Sister Mary Grace Rom
March 25, 1920 – October 19, 2023
Betty Bernice Rom was born on March 25, 1920, to Roy and Emmie Rom, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her father was a schoolteacher, and her mother was a homemaker. Her mother died on her 15th birthday. Her remaining youth was spent helping to raise her younger brother Roy, who survives her, and her younger sisters, Carol and Rita.
She graduated from Riverside High School in Milwaukee in 1938. In the fall of 1938, she enrolled in Carthage College. She was an excellent student and received a bachelor of arts degree in May 1942. She received a teaching license for home economics and biology on July 2, 1944.
After teaching high school for several years, she entered the Western Province of the Community of St. Mary in 1950. She made her life profession on October 2, 1952. In her early years in the convent, she taught junior high school science and home economics. Later, she became assistant novice mistress and then novice mistress.
Sister Mary Grace was elected Mother Superior of the Western Province of the Community of St. Mary in 1966 and served in that capacity until 1971.
In 1971 the General Chapter of the Episcopal Community of St. Mary elected Sister Mary Grace as their seventh Reverend Mother Superior General. As such, she spent time at each of the 10 houses of the Eastern and Western Provinces of the Community of St. Mary.
In 1973 she was elected to serve on the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church. She was also elected to serve as the presiding officer for the Conference on the Religious Life. She was the first woman to serve in either position.
Later, in her retirement years, she belonged to St. Matthias Episcopal Church in Waukesha, Wisconsin for many years.
She died at age 103, on October 19, 2023, at Saint John’s On The Lake, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was the last surviving member of the Western Province of the Community of St. Mary.
Services will be held on November 1, 2023, at 10 a.m. at All Saints’ Cathedral, 818 E Juneau Ave., Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
See a 2021 interview with Sr. Mary Grace and Deacon Nancy Hills as part of the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee Oral History Project here.