Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Sister Amata May, Sister of Mercy and educator, dies April 10

Published May 2, 2019

TIMONIUM, Md.—Sister Mary Amata May, Sister of Mercy for 70 years, died April 10 at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium, Maryland. She was 88 years old.

Born in Augusta in 1930, Sister Amata May was the second child of Marion M. May, a fireman, and Louise Gray May, a homemaker, and was given the name Agnes Louise at baptism. The untimely death of her mother resulted in her father’s reluctant decision to place young Agnes and her sister in St. Mary’s Home in Savannah, and it was there that she was raised and educated by the Sisters of Mercy. She continued to live at St. Mary’s until graduating in 1948 from St. Vincent’s Academy. She recalled being treated with care and compassion by the sisters, but also considered herself a vital part of her birth family, maintaining close ties with her father.

Sister Amata entered the community soon after high school at Mount Washington in Baltimore and made her novitiate there, where she began her post-secondary studies. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Mount Saint Agnes College. She attended Emory University, graduating with a master’s degree in mathematics. Years later, she received a second master’s degree from Loyola College, where she studied adulthood and aging.

Sister Amata May, seated, who died April 10, is pictured with her former student Deanna Blanton Simmons just prior to the sister’s 70th jubilee last August. Simmons, who lives in Lawrenceville, remembers her teacher as a “special lady.” Photo Courtesy Deanna Blanton Simmons

Teaching was Sister Amata’s primary ministry, and she taught in both elementary and high schools in what was then the Baltimore Province of the Sisters of Mercy, including Alabama, Georgia and Maryland.

In Atlanta, Sister Amata taught at Our Lady of Assumption School and St. Pius X High School.

During her ten-year stint at Mercy High School in Baltimore, she was admired and respected for her skill in teaching higher-level mathematics, and particularly for success in communicating math skills to all students, even those who claimed to hate the subject. It was during those years that she became known to her students as Amatamay, (all one word), a designation that amused and followed her for the remaining years of life.

In 1987, Sister Amata left education to work in other ministries, including managing the Blessed Sacrament Residence, an outreach of Stella Maris, where she helped make a home for elderly people; and as night manager at My Sister’s Place, a residence for homeless women. Still eager to help others, she became, for three years, a research evaluator for the University of Maryland.

Sister Amata came to The Villa, then the retirement home for Sisters of Mercy in 1997 as a volunteer. She traveled to Stella Maris four days a week for a program where she enjoyed companionship and made new friends.

Most recently she moved to Mercy Springwell, the Baltimore community’s new retirement convent where she continued her ministry of prayer and good works.

Sister Amata is survived by one sister, Justine May Cooney; five nieces and four nephews.

A Mass of Christian Burial was held at Stella Maris April 16 followed by interment at Woodlawn Cemetery.