NEW YORK - An 83-year-old nun walking on a Harlem street Tuesday morning was killed and four others were injured in a traffic accident caused by fleeing robbery suspects, police said.
The crash occurred around 9 a.m. after police identified a car believed to be driven by three suspects wanted in an earlier armed robbery. Police arrested the driver, but the passenger slid into the driver's seat and sped off with the other suspect, slamming into a minivan a few blocks away.
Two pedestrians were critically injured, and Sister Mary Celine Graham later died. She was a member of the Franciscan Handmaids of the Most Pure Heart of Mary order for more than 60 years, according to the Archdiocese of New York. Another pedestrian suffered minor injuries as did the two passengers in the minivan, police said. They were all hospitalized in stable condition.
The two other robbery suspects fled on foot after crashing into the minivan, and police said they were looking for them.
Graham spent her time working with preschool children at St. Benedict's Day Nursery in Harlem and Camp St. Edward on Staten Island, the Archdiocese said. She also spent time working in North Carolina. In recent years, due to Parkinson's disease, she spent her time praying for priests and all those involved in ministries undertaken by her order.
"Sister was a Franciscan handmaid to her toes," said Sister Loretta Theresa Richards, Graham's superior. "In her selfless dedication to serving 'her children,' she was always trying to make things better for somebody else."
Graham had still been living at the convent when she was killed.
The Franciscan Handmaids of Mary has a motherhouse in Harlem and was originally founded as a black congregation of Roman Catholic Sisters in Savannah, Ga. Today, the congregation is composed of women from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds, according to its website.