April 4, 1929 – June 3, 1998
Within the powerful phalanx of those who follow Jesus was our Sister Nancy Coyne, last serving her beloved senior Sisters in the Aquinata Dining Room. The story of her ministry had only one focus—the Dignity of Life from birth to death, as she tended and fed her flocks.
The growth of the Grand Rapids Dominicans overflows with examples of steadfast strength and continuous renewal–the tireless artists of home and hearth, our Sister Homemakers. Their names ring out in litanies of grateful and tender memories. Like Peter, they could wonder, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” For Jesus had just told them, “Follow me!” And, Jesus’ response? “There is no one who has left home, mother or father . . . or children or fields for My name’s sake, who will not receive a hundredfold.” Once so many, of late so few, but each and all had heard Jesus call, “Follow me,” left their all for peeling potatoes, baking bread, surprising three meals a day with innovation and magic to find their reward in their own versions of multiplying loaves and fishes.
Born in Muskegon, Michigan on April 14, 1929 to Margaret Suess and William Joseph Coyne, she was the second of four children. She was baptized Nancy at St. Mary’s Church by Father K. J. Whalen. “Being Irish” explained belonging to St. Mary’s. Naturally, her attendance at the parish grade and high school brought her into many contacts with the Dominican Sisters who taught there. Their good vocation-seed fell on already fertile family soil, and God was ready to give the increase. During her senior year, she applied to Marywood for entrance on September 8, 1948. The following June, she received the Dominican habit and the name Sister Margaret William to honor her parents. Her first profession in 1950 was sealed forever with final vows on August 15, 1953. Her flocks were waiting for her—to tend, to feed.
They were in big and little convent kitchens, in community and diocesan institutions. No matter. Jesus had said, “Follow me.” How many later priests were nurtured by her willing Martha-works in the early fifties at St. Joseph Seminary? How many teenage girls away from home carried their problems to a compassionate prefect at Marywood Academy over ten years? Big-sistering marked her ministries at Grand Rapids St. Stephen’s and Immaculate Heart, at Aquinas College Convent, Holy Rosary Academy in Bay City, St. Mary’s, Gaylord and eventually with the senior Sisters at the House of Studies and Aquinata Hall. At every station, her generosity knew no bounds. Never too busy to welcome her Sisters for a coffee break, a cup of tea, and often a cheery chat, she was refreshment to the soul, a veritable “friend in need.” Her delight manifested itself on special occasions. Birthdays and Feast Days brought forth the artistry of her hands. Life was to be celebrated. Why else was she endowed so well, except for sharing? Plants for her green thumb flourished about her. A kitten, curled up in her lap as she read, gave her comfort. Music surrounded her work and relaxation. For good measure, she loved a brisk walk or a good card game with dear Sister friends. Nor were her endearing talents reserved to community. Responsibility, whatever her relationship, was graced and tempered with care, fairness and oftentimes surprise remembrances. Behind it all was Love. In her own words, she “loved working as prefect, loved Food Service, loved serving the Sisters, especially her senior Sisters, the ‘Beautiful People’.”
When in 1985, the House of Studies residents moved to Marywood, it seemed a sign for enjoying the enrichment of a sabbatical year. Whereupon with permission, she directed her energies inwardly and outwardly to her own wholeness. Travel to New Mexico, volunteer ministry with St. Thomas seniors, choir, swimming, crafts, classes at Aquinas, and more volunteer Big Sistering at Booth Memorial Hospital—with such, she refocused her life. Earlier, she had resumed her baptismal name, whimsically hoping it might not be too easily nicknamed. After all, this was a tribute to her parents’ choice. Realizing her physical limitations and that of time, she opted to enjoy living apart from her work. Most recently she and Sr. Judith Ann Barber shared life and gardening on Arthur Street. It was all a part of following.
The hundredfold was long in preparation and waiting, when God called Sister Nancy Coyne, Dominican Homemaker to the Eternal Banquet on June 3, 1998.
Besides her community Sisters and many friends, she is survived by one brother, Robert Coyne, his wife Sandy; a sister-in-law Helen Coyne of Muskegon; and several nieces and nephews.
Entered eternal life on June 3, 1998 at the age of 69 after 49 years of religious life
We commend Sister Nancy to your prayers.