Meet the Women Who Shaped KenCrest’s History


Sister Maria Roeck and Sister Grace Jones made wonderful contributions to KenCrest's history and we celebrate them this Women's History Month. 

By Sydney Kerelo

We all appreciate remembrance days and months. They challenge us to be better informed, make us grateful to the people who got us this far, and often make us more determined to carry on their work. We just finished Black History Month, and now, Women’s History Month in March. KenCrest has some excellent contributions from women in our history.

Here are the stories of two women who helped shape who KenCrest is:

Sister Maria Roeck


Sister Maria Roeck

Sister Maria Roeck spent the 42 years of her life taking care of her partially disabled mother, and when she passed, Sister Maria applied to the Lutheran Deaconess Community. With a forceful and direct leadership, Sister Maria earned the respect of numerous doctors and was determined to help those who needed it most.

In 1905, as Tuberculosis—or the "White Plague"—spread rapidly throughout the Kensington, PA community, Sister Maria Roeck dedicated her time to helping those afflicted. She persevered, gathering donors and volunteers to meet the needs of the people who were ill and their families. As a robust and forceful woman, she “was strong enough to survive a man’s world and lead men who were themselves leaders in their own right,” according to “KenCrest: A Story of One Century, Two Missions, Three Pioneers.”

Sister Maria Roeck was one of the early pioneers in our region of the country and one of the earliest women to lead a nonprofit organization. A woman leader 110 years ago was rare indeed!

Sister Grace Jones

Sister Grace knew that strengthening our community was not over when tuberculosis was cured, and she led us to a new purpose. Sister Grace spoke out as a new Deaconess-In-Charge, reminding the leaders of her time that education and support were an obligation, not an option.

Sister Grace Jones

Sister Grace Jones

It was customary for a person with disabilities to be placed within an institution like Pennhurst during this time. At the same time, children with disabilities raised at home couldn’t attend a public school. Along with many supporters, Sister Grace thought this was wrong and wanted to create normalization around people with disabilities and treat them like any average person.

As the third Deaconess, Sister Grace changed the mission of KenCrest from focusing on tuberculosis to helping those with developmental and intellectual disabilities. She firmly believed in family support and wanted to ensure that it met the needs of the family and the people supported.

Sister Grace pioneered our region of education and opportunity for people with special needs and helped KenCrest provide services to people in the 1950s. She improved a mission that endured 50 years and reshaped an organization that has lasted more than 70 years.

All women make someone’s history, whether they are someone who loved us and helped raise us or someone we served.

As the Agency navigates KenCrest’s history and the history of women’s leadership, we know that our work toward inclusion is not finished. While, as a society, we have passed laws regarding equal rights, we see evidence of injustice every day.

Our greatest goal is to lead the community forward by inspiring and challenging everyone to do what's plausible — ensuring full participation for people with disabilities in our society. Our part in that goal as KenCrest is to advocate for the inclusion of the people we support and help strengthen the neighborhoods where they reside.

What’s your greatest goal at KenCrest? What do you imagine will be needed to push forward on inclusion?