East Harlem Advocate Dies of Cancer at Age 75

dn6-18-92Sister Mary Nerney, who dedicated her life to incarcerated women and victims of domestic violence, died of cancer Wednesday. She was 75.

A pillar in her East Harlem community and a leader in the Catholic social justice movement, she founded numerous alternative to incarceration programs focused on female offenders.

“She was a fierce advocate of women who had a history of abuse and trauma,” said Lucia Rivieccio, executive director of STEPS to End Family Violence, which Sister Mary started. “An absolute inspiration and blessing to all of us.”

In 1975, Sister Mary formed Project Green Hope: Services for Women, which helped those released from prison reenter society. Eleven years later, she set up STEPS, which focused on battered women and later expanded to provide services to children who witness violence and young men who began abusing their girlfriends.

Sister Mary also founded the Incarcerated Mothers Program and was a founding member of the Coalition for Women Prisoners. She continued to counsel inmates until days before she died.

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