On November 9th, Sister Grace Regina Wingenfeld turned 106 and celebrated her birthday with friends and family. She has been a member of the Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville for 90 years.
Sister Grace entered religious life when she was 15. This past September she celebrated her 90th year as a nun. A legend among the Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville, she was an accomplished math teacher for decades — known for getting the most recalcitrant of students to learn the science of numbers. Her explanation of that talent? “When you like something, you can sell it,” she said.
S. Grace grew up in Brooklyn and attended schools where the Dominican Sisters taught. She entered the order in 1927, at a time when it was not unusual to be a novice at 15. She taught for about two decades in Brooklyn, then spent eight years teaching in Puerto Rico. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s in mathematics from St. John’s University, as well as a doctorate in counseling and guidance from Fordham University. Along the way, she spent 18 years at Molloy College in Rockville Centre, where her duties included heading the guidance department, and a year at Covenant House in Manhattan, ministering to runaways. She also gained an interest in Eastern prayer practices, and for a time gave classes and workshops on body, mind and spirit.
S.Grace is in good shape for her age — until recently, she carried her own tray in the cafeteria and served as a lector, reading Bible passages at daily Masses at the Motherhouse, where she lives. Her hearing has declined, and visitors often must write down questions and comments for her.
She says teaching and math are her passions. “I loved teaching, especially math,” she said. “I loved it and I got the girls to love it.” Decades later, some of her students still come back to visit.