Sr Mary Daniel Cooper, a longtime member of the Sisters of the Holy Family, has died in New Orleans after more than seven decades of service in religious life. She turned 94 years old on December 9.
The news was published in the Times-Picayune on January 11, eight days after her passing. No cause of death was announced.
“Goodbye, Sister Daniel. Now you ‘Go Marching In’ with the heavenly saints,” her family wrote in an obituary.
Born Beatrice Theresa Cooper in 1928 to Philip and Lena Fink Cooper, she was one of 14 siblings raised in Algiers, a neighborhood of New Orleans located across the Mississippi River on the West Bank. The family attended All Saints Catholic Church, a local Black parish operated by the Josephites.
Called to join the Holy Family Sisters at a young age, Cooper joined the order shortly after graduating high school, pronouncing first vows in 1950. The congregation, founded by Venerable Henriette DeLille in 1837, is the second-oldest surviving order of Black nuns in the United States. Cooper’s younger sister, Mildred, was also a member of the order until her death in 2007.
Cooper received her higher education in Louisiana at Delgado Community College, as well as at Southern University at New Orleans. Like many of her fellow Holy Family Sisters, she ministered as an educator in Black Catholic settings throughout Louisiana and in Southeast Texas—including at her alma mater, All Saints Catholic School.
For a time, Cooper also served at the Lafon Nursing Facility in New Orleans, founded in 1841 and said to be among the oldest nursing homes in the United States.
Known like her sister for her culinary prowess, Cooper was for years a food supervisor at the Sisters’ flagship school, St. Mary’s Academy, and at the order’s motherhouse nextdoor in New Orleans East.
At the time of her death, Cooper was assigned to the motherhouse, where she celebrated her diamond jubilee in the summer of 2022, marking 75 years in religious life.
“At the age of 15, [Cooper] felt the need to serve the Church and felt a deep desire to give her life to the service of others with a sincere love and care for children,” reads a program for the event.
“Sr Daniel saw the Sisters and how they cared for the children and thought it was a life worth choosing.”
Cooper’s funeral will be held at the Holy Family Sisters’ motherhouse in New Orleans on Friday, January 13, at 10am CT. Visitation will take place beforehand at 8am, followed by a wake. Masks will be required for entry, and interment will follow at St. Louis Cemetery #2.
Sympathy flowers for the family and memorial trees in honor of Cooper can be purchased online at the following link.
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).