BUFFALO, N.Y. — Sister Lucille A. Socciarelli, R.S.M., formerly Sister Mary Lucella, the nun who inspired the late newsman Tim Russert, died April 9 at Mercy Convent in South Buffalo. She was 82.
Born March 30, 1935 in Albion, N.Y. to Dominic and Lucy (DePalma) Socciarelli, both immigrants from Italy, Sister Lucille graduated from Albion High School and joined the Religious Sisters of Mercy in 1953 when she was 18 years old and professed her final vows in 1956.
She received a bachelor’s degree in education from Niagara University and a master’s degree in education from the State University of Buffalo at New York. While pursuing her own education, Sister Lucille taught at elementary and secondary schools throughout the Diocese of Buffalo, N.Y. and served as principal. She also received a religious studies degree from Boston College in Newton.
Russert, the longtime host of NBC’s “Meet the Press” who died in 2008, credited Sister Lucille, who was his seventh-grade teacher at St. Bonaventure School in West Seneca, N.Y. in 1963, with encouraging him to pursue a career in journalism by making him the editor of the school newspaper.
During her tenure as a member of the Pastoral Care Team at Charlton Memorial Hospital in Fall River, Sister Lucille joined her former pupil when he gave the keynote address at the St. Mary’s Education Fund Dinner held at White’s of Westport in 2006.
“I’m convinced I could not be doing what I am today without the help I received from the most important teacher I ever met,” Russert told The Anchor of Sister Lucille during his visit to the diocese. “In Catholic schools, students have the opportunity to learn to read and write and learn right from wrong. It’s essential that young people understand that they can have the same opportunities and achieve anything. One of them could be the next moderator of ‘Meet the Press.’”
Russert also established an award — the Sister Lucille Socciarelli-Father John Sturm Making a Difference Award — which is given annually by the Diocese of Buffalo to an outstanding Catholic educator. Father Sturm was prefect at Canisius High School where Russert attended.
After 30 years in education, Sister Lucille became director of youth ministry in Florida in the 1980s, then returned to become director of pastoral care at Mercy Hospital. She later served as chaplain at hospitals in the Fall River Diocese before retiring and returning to Buffalo in 2015.
She is survived by a brother, Donald, and many nieces, nephews and cousins.
A Mass of Christian Burial was held April 11 at the Mercy Center Chapel in Buffalo, N.Y., and burial followed in Holy Cross Cemetery in Lackawanna, N.Y.