Sister Nancy Conley (formerly Sister Robertine), a Sister of Mercy for 71 years, lived her motto, “to know Christ.” Her life had been a journey of knowing God in her heart, in relationship with others in her life and in service to Christ people in need.
After graduating from St. Mary Academy Bay View in Riverside, Rhode Island in 1951, she entered the Sisters of Mercy Novitiate in Cumberland earning a degree in special education. Nancy taught elementary school for six years but was called to work at St. Maurice School in Potomac, Maryland for ten years when the Sisters of Mercy of the Union opened the school for students with special needs on the same campus as their administrative site.
On her return to Rhode Island, she served as a special education teacher in the North Attleboro school district and joined two other Sisters of Mercy, three Sisters of La Salette, and Mary Pendergast, a laywoman (now a Sister of Mercy), to establish an experimental community in Cumberland finding support through prayer and discussions with a Jesuit priest who served as a mentor.
In 1980, she returned to the Washington, DC, area to help close the administrative offices and St. Maurice School and then work with religious from different communities, various church groups, and non-profits to try to meet the needs of people on the Washington streets. She was involved in the founding of Hannah’s House, a home for women and children, and part of the Capital Hill Neighborhood Ministries that provided living, clothing, food, and health care for men, women, and children in need. In 2011 she returned to Providence, Rhode Island, and continued to be active in protests, sit-ins, lobbying public officials and encouraging people to appeal to legislators for change. Even in death, she manifested her commitment to Earth by having a natural burial.