Sister Joyce Osgood was a dedicated teacher who served the Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville for 56 years with pride.
But it was her work with the sick and the dying that defined her compassionate spirit, those close to her said.
Osgood, who worked at Good Shepherd Hospice in Port Jefferson and Melville until she retired in April, died June 2 at the age of 75 in her Kings Park home. She had long-term health problems, said her sister, Joanne Cahill, also of Kings Park.
During Osgood’s life, she was known for her humor, practical jokes and knack for sports, though she was only “5 foot tall on a good day,” Cahill said.
Born in Brooklyn on Dec. 12, 1940, to John and Anne Osgood, she attended St. Brendan’s, a Catholic school in Brooklyn. At an early age she knew she wanted to join the religious life, Cahill said.
Osgood joined the Amityville order in 1960 and took the name Sister Mary Pia. She later reverted to her baptismal name after the Second Vatican Council reforms modernized many aspects of religious life.
She received a bachelor’s degree in English in 1970 from Molloy College in Rockville Centre and a master’s in theology in 1972 from St. John’s University.
Initially, she worked as a teacher in various Long Island elementary schools.
“It was ironic though that she wanted to be a teacher,” Cahill said, because when Osgood first started school in Brooklyn, she had no interest in going.
“She hung on trees, poles, fences” to avoid her first day of school, Cahill said, but eventually grew up to be a good student and captain of the varsity basketball team.
Osgood loved children and enjoyed her time as a teacher, but the Vatican II rulings empowered her; she felt pulled toward parish ministry, typically reserved for male clergy. She wrote to Leadership of the Congregation, urging that more sisters be integrated into the ministry type of service.
In 1969 she received a surprising answer: OK.
She began parish ministry at St. Paul the Apostle in Jericho, where she remained until 1979.
Osgood found her true calling, however, in hospice care. Her mother and father died at ages 46 and 57, respectively, said Cahill, so Osgood became well acquainted with “how people leave this earth,” Cahill said.
She first worked as a chaplain at Mercy Hospital in Rockville Centre, where she served critical-care and emergency-room patients and their families. At Mercy, she cared for staff as well, said Sister Mary Alice of the Congregation of the Infant of Jesus in Rockville Centre, who worked with Osgood.
“She would make it her ministry to make sure that she followed up with the staff members,” after patients died or lost a child during birth. “She always remembered our staff were mothers, aunts, uncles, too,” Sister Mary Alice said.
Osgood loved her work with critical-care patients, who inspired her to care for those at the end of their lives. Osgood studied at Central Islip Hospital before making the transition to hospice.
In addition, she was an avid gardener and was known to share her homegrown fruits and vegetables, often giving out tomatoes or “leaving zucchini on people’s doorsteps,” Cahill said, or supplementing meals for her fellow sisters at the order.
Osgood is also survived by another sister, June Moffa of Butler, New Jersey. Services were held Monday at St. Albert’s Chapel of the motherhouse in Amityville. She was buried Tuesday in the sisters’ cemetery there.