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Obituaries

Julissa Duggan, BVM

Julissa Duggan, BVM died Nov. 28, 2014, at Marian Hall in Dubuque, Iowa. Visitation will be from 9–11 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, in the Marian Hall Chapel followed by a prayer service at 11 a.m. Funeral liturgy will be at 1:30 p.m. Burial is in the Mount Carmel cemetery.

She was born in South Garryowen, Iowa, on June 9, 1919, to William Patrick and Julia Winifred (Lynch) Duggan. She entered the BVM congregation Sept. 8, 1937, from St. Raphael Cathedral Parish, Dubuque, Iowa. She professed first vows on March 19, 1940, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1945.

Julissa was an elementary school educator and administrator in Cascade, Cedar Falls, Davenport and Muscatine, Iowa. She also taught in Chattanooga, Tenn.; Tucson, Ariz.; Clarksdale, Miss.; and Chicago.

She was preceded in death by her parents; brothers Joseph and Daniel; and sisters: Mildred Hilby, Cora Sullivan, Irene Lay, Anita Brandt, Evelyn Babcock, and Viola Baumhover. She is survived by nieces and nephews and the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with whom she shared life for 77 years.

Sister Julissa Duggan, BVM
Funeral Welcome
Marian Hall, Dec. 4, 2014

Good afternoon and welcome to the celebration of life of our Sister Julissa Duggan.

Julia Vivian was born on June 9, 1919, in South Garryowen, Iowa. She was the eighth child of William Patrick Duggan and Julia Winifred Lynch. She had two older brothers, five older sisters, and one younger sister. In an interview, Julia recalled growing up in a large farm family: “It was hard to wear hand-me-downs until I was sixteen. I gave my clothes to Viola, #9 . . . Even the girls had to do farm work like milking the cows.”

The Duggans had a unique approach to homeschooling. The Duggan children attended the public school until William and Julia discovered that the Ku Klux Klan objected to the religion classes taught by the Catholic teacher. Together with other concerned parents, they bought an unused, one-room school house in Jackson County, moved it to their farm, and hired a local teacher to teach the Duggan children as well as some of their cousins. Now that is a “home” school.

The Duggan family eventually moved to Dubuque and Julia attended Cathedral Grade School and St. Joseph Academy where she was introduced to the BVMs. Julia said, “I always wanted to be a BVM sister. The call came as I observed the sisters who did so much. I desired to spread God’s love as they did . . .” Julia entered the congregation on Sept. 8, 1937. She received the name Julissa upon her reception on March 19, 1938, professed first vows on March 19, 1940, and lived 77 years as a BVM.

Julissa was an elementary school teacher for 23 years teaching all grades from first through eighth over the expanse of her career. She was missioned in Davenport, Muscatine, Cedar Falls and Cascade, Iowa; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Clarksdale, Miss.; and Chicago. “The places where you had to endure more and had less were the happiest missions,” Julissa commented. “There was a ‘togetherness.’ We all saw the ends for which we were working.” She also served 23 years as principal in Cascade and Muscatine. In an interview with the Muscatine Journal, Julissa said, “I’ve always told my teachers that a smile and a kind word when greeting the children is so important! We don’t know what rough experiences some little kiddos may have had before they came to school and we may help to make their lives brighter.”

Julissa retired from teaching in 1987 and resided at St. Mathias Convent in Muscatine where, over the course of three missions, she had lived for 39 years. She recalled the time when Hayes Catholic HS closed and parish elementary schools consolidated and occupied the Hayes building. “My picture hung on the wall as the founder. [In 2008,] one of the students asked, ‘Who is that lady? What does she look like now?’ So the principal called and asked if they could take a field trip to see me. About fifty came to answer that question. I had taught their grandparents. One boy said, ‘You’re old just like my grandma. Can I kiss you?’ So they all lined up for a kiss . . .”

Children were not all that Julissa kissed! She was very proud of her Irish heritage, so a trip to Ireland in 1976 would not have been complete without a stop in County Cork to kiss the Blarney Stone.

Julissa moved to Mount Carmel in 1991 and called her years at the Motherhouse “exciting and satisfying.” Each morning while workers were installing geothermal heat on the ground floor of the Motherhouse, she would make two dozen pots of coffee and prepare orange juice and cookies for them. A few years earlier, a brief conversation between Julissa and a workman ended with a request to pray for his daughter. Julissa asked his daughter’s name so she could mention her by name to the Lord. With that simple question, the man left, assured that she would keep her promise.

Julissa dealt with a number of health issues in her lifetime. In 2002, she contracted a disease that attacked her spine. She survived, about which her doctor said, “You are not supposed to be here!” She returned to Marian Hall to recuperate and begin what she referred to as her “senior years,” commenting that her illness was a “gift” and that it gave her “a chance to get to know God even better.” Her words echoed the message of St. Peter: “For a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith . . . may prove to be for praise, glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

God indeed had more work for her to do and intended her to keep brightening the lives of others with her presence. Just gazing upon Julissa’s radiant face, her sparkling eyes and gorgeous smile, one could not help but hear:

“When Irish eyes are smiling,
Sure, 'tis like the morn in Spring.
In the lilt of Irish laughter
You can hear the angels sing.”

Today the angels are singing the most wonderful song for the beautiful soul of our dear Julissa has joined the heavenly chorus.

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Stella Marie Swakoski, BVM (Lidwina)

Stella Marie Swakoski, BVM (Lidwina) died Oct. 4, 2014, at Marian Hall in Dubuque, Iowa. Visitation will be from 9–11 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 10, 2014, in the Marian Hall Chapel followed by a prayer service at 11 a.m. Funeral liturgy will be at 1:30 p.m. Burial is in the Mount Carmel cemetery.

She was born in Butte, Mont., on Oct. 10, 1919, to John T. and Anna Marie (Heaney) Swakoski. She entered the BVM congregation Sept. 8, 1938, from St. Joseph Parish, Butte. She professed first vows on March 19, 1941, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1946.

Stella Marie was an elementary school educator and administrator in Dubuque; Des Moines and Council Bluffs, Iowa; San Jose, Calif.; and Butte and Missoula, Mont. She was on the faculty of Clarke University, Dubuque. She ministered as secondary school counselor in Anaheim, Calif.

She was preceded in death by her parents; sisters: Mary Gonzales, Bernice Pappas, Ann Marie Caddell, Caroline Schere and Dorothy Harmon; and brothers Ted and Frank. She is survived by nieces and nephews, and the Sisters of Charity, BVM, with whom she shared life for 76 years.

Sister Stella Marie Swakoski, BVM (Lidwina)
Funeral Welcome
Marian Hall, Oct. 10, 2014

Good afternoon and welcome to the celebration of life of our Sister Stella Marie Swakoski.

St. Paul wrote, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another . . . And over all these put on love.” This passage, which Stella chose for her wake service, beautifully reflects the manner in which she lived her life as a teacher, a principal, a counselor, an aunt and a BVM sister.

Stella Marie Swakoski was born on Oct. 10, 1919, the sixth of eight children born to Anna Marie Heaney and John T. Swakoski in Butte, Mont. She was baptized at St. Joseph Church and attended St. Joseph ES where she was taught by the BVMs. Stella loved and cherished her ethnic heritage. From her Irish mother she inherited a love of learning, an appreciation of music, and a sense of humor and wit; from her Polish father, a great sense of responsibility, a strong work ethic, and an appreciation for the wonderful gift of her Catholic faith.

Stella entered Mount Carmel on Sept. 8, 1938, received the name Lidwina upon her reception on March 19, 1939, and professed first vows on March 19, 1941. She lived 76 years as a BVM. Her first missions were St. John ES in Des Moines, Iowa, and St. Leo ES in San José, Calif. In 1943, she was sent to her home parish, St. Joseph in Butte, where she says she was admonished by Sister Mary Adorinus, her provincial, to set an example so more girls from Butte would enter the BVMs. Five girls from St. Joseph did enter during the three years she was there. Following her years in Butte, Stella first returned to Des Moines and then served as principal at St. Francis Xavier ES in Council Bluffs, Iowa. In 1952, she returned to Montana to serve at St. Ann ES in Butte and as superior at St. Anthony ES in Missoula. Following this she was assigned to her favorite mission as principal at St. Anthony ES in Dubuque. While at St. Anthony, she convinced the pastor to build a convent for the sisters who previously resided at Clarke University. Stella also taught in the Education Department at Clarke.

In 1968, Stella received a fellowship in guidance and counseling at Indiana University in Terre Haute and was subsequently recruited as a guidance counselor by the Anaheim Union High School District in southern California, where she served for over 30 years. During that time, she was named “Counselor of the Year for Orange County.” In her position on the Governor’s Board in Sacramento, she was one of three who designed a “Guidance Handbook for High School Counselors for the State of California.” Stella served on many committees, especially on student drug abuse, victims of child abuse, and the social injustices of our time. In 1994, she transitioned to part-time counseling during the day and teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) three nights a week.

During her years of working in the public school, Stella maintained close contact with her many BVM friends. She was always proud of belonging to her cluster and was actively involved in congregational issues. Stella moved to Mount Carmel in 2005 and participated in many activities and classes. Her diminished eyesight caused her to resign from being a Mode 3 Senator in 2010.

When her five sisters and two brothers died, Stella became the matriarch of a large and supportive family of nieces and nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews. She visited them until her health would no longer permit her to travel. However, they kept in close contact with her by visiting, phoning and writing.

Today would have been Stella’s 95th birthday. A few years ago, when asked the secret to living a long life, Stella replied, “Be grateful for each day God gives. It is a gift to have lived . . . and to be able to say, ‘I’ve done my best with God’s help.’” Stella wanted to be remembered for her energy, her enthusiasm, her love of life, and especially her love for the BVM community. She formed wonderful relationships with her BVM sisters and was a confidant to many as they sought her advice and assistance. Because of this, Stella had beautiful stories to share at the wakes of her beloved sisters who have gone home to God. For these stories, she will always be remembered. It is only fitting to conclude this welcome with the same words Stella used to conclude her stories: “God bless her beautiful soul!”

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Mary Faith Lautz, BVM

Mary Faith Lautz, BVM died Oct. 1, 2014, at Marian Hall in Dubuque, Iowa. Visitation will be from 10–11 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014, in the Marian Hall Chapel followed by a prayer service at 11 a.m. Funeral liturgy will be at 1:30 p.m. Burial is in the Mount Carmel cemetery.

She was born in Dickinson, N.D. on Dec. 12, 1917, to Frank and Ann (Wenner) Lautz. She entered the BVM congregation Sept. 8, 1935, from St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, Milwaukee. She professed first vows on March 19, 1938, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1943.

Mary Faith was an elementary and secondary school teacher and administrator in Wichita, Kan.; Chicago; Milwaukee; Phoenix; Fairbanks, Alaska; Kansas City, Mo.; and San Jose, Calif. She was administrator of the Roberta Kuhn Center at Mount Carmel, Dubuque, and served in pastoral ministry in Anchorage and Holy Cross, Alaska.

She was preceded in death by her parents and sisters Dorothy Hamilton and Jane Singer. She is survived by nieces and nephews, and the Sisters of Charity, BVM, with whom she shared life for 79 years.

Sister Mary Faith Lautz, BVM
Funeral Welcome
Marian Hall, Oct. 9, 2014

Good afternoon and welcome to the celebration of life of our Sister Mary Faith Lautz.

Mary Helen Lautz was born on Dec. 12, 1917, in Dickinson, N.D., joining her sisters Dorothy and Jane as the three children of Frank Lautz and Ann Wenner. Their father operated a grain elevator in North Dakota until his business declined. He traveled to Michigan to look for work while the girls and their mother moved to Dodgeville, Wis., to be near their mother’s family. Mary Helen’s father died in Detroit during the 1918 flu epidemic. Both her mother and Mary Helen also contracted the flu but fortunately recovered. The Lautz girls lived with their maternal grandparents in Dodgeville, while their mother trained in Milwaukee, Wis., to become a nurse. Eventually, the girls rejoined their mother.

Mary Helen attended Holy Angels High School in Milwaukee where she was introduced to the BVMs. She commented, “I loved them! They were funny; they played jokes on each other.” She was led to a religious vocation by school retreats and the chiding thought, “What does it profit to gain the world and lose one’s soul?” Sister Fleurette Blameuser, Mary Helen’s art teacher, guided her into the BVMs. “That this was the very best way to live my life sent me to the convent without looking back,” she wrote in her autobiography. Mary Helen entered the congregation on Sept. 8, 1935, and received the name Faith upon her reception on March 19, 1936. She professed first vows on March 19, 1938, and lived 79 years as a BVM.

Faith taught elementary grades in Wichita, Kans., and Chicago for 14 years. Later she taught art and government at Holy Angels Academy in Milwaukee for 12 years. Often teachers never know the extent of their influence in the lives of their students. However, in 2011 Faith received a letter from a former student who wrote, “I was in [your] sixth grade [class] at St. Joseph School in Wichita, Kan., . . . I was a member of the Baptist Church. You were the very reason that I became a Catholic . . . I wish to thank you for all you taught me about the Church. My parents . . . at their deaths both had returned to the church.”

Faith served eight years as principal at St. Francis Xavier HS (now Xavier College Preparatory) in Phoenix. She wrote, “[It was a] time in our community of turmoil, of questioning, of change, of loss. Living there was for me worldly, sophisticated, free and unsettling. I wanted to be away to a simpler world, a place where I could once again possess my soul in peace.” She found that peace teaching at Monroe HS in Fairbanks, Alaska, until she was asked to accept the position of assistant principal at Regis O’Hara High School in Kansas City, Mo.

Two year later, Faith returned to Alaska to spend the next nine years working as the administrator of a retreat house, an assistant in the Religious Education Office of the Archdiocese of Anchorage, and a pastoral associate of two parishes. About her time with the Athabascan Indians and Eskimos she wrote, “The image I had of happy, colorfully-dressed, native children with loving parents in snug little homes was modified when I saw the poor condition of many homes and the litter and dirt on the streets . . . One needs great faith, hope, love to keep up one’s courage when working with good but very poor people who seem to have no roots in faith . . . How much good I did by being there, being a friend, being the presence of ‘church,’ I do not know. I did love my time there and, had not my years warned me to move on, I would have remained . . . I left with a heavy heart.”

Faith returned to the Lower Forty-eight in 1986 to teach in San Jose, Calif. The following year, she moved to Dubuque to become the administrator of the Roberta Kuhn Center where she also taught art classes. “It was a wonderfully joyous place and I loved it,” remarked Faith. In 2003, after breaking her ankle in a car accident, she moved to Mount Carmel.

Faith was a gifted artist whose work Women in Scripture was included in the Women and Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America Exhibit at the Carnegie-Stout Public Library here in Dubuque. Her Master’s thesis “The Sacred Heart” graces the wall just outside this chapel. When Faith was at Help of Christians School in Chicago, she was constantly asked to paint spiritual bouquets and altar linens. “The Superior, [Sister Alethea Garrity], had me painting through the night to catch up. Sister Ann Regina [Dobel] used to read to me while I continued painting. One time we were still painting and reading when the rising bell rang for the day.” When asked if she feels like an artist, she replied, “No, I feel like an art teacher . . . I loved to teach and loved the contact with students.” She was frequently asked to critique the works of beginning artists. She always gave her honest opinion and, true to her teaching charism, offered suggestions for improvement, if necessary.

Faith was an independent thinker and a doer who made lasting impressions with her warm, welcoming and gracious smile. She was genuinely happy to see people and formed many lifelong friends. She dearly loved her family and eagerly awaited their visits, calls and letters and plastered her bulletin board with their photos. Besides her passion for art, Faith loved music, dance and cats and, according to a friend, she could “cook an Alaskan salmon like no one else.”

Faith certainly heeded St. Paul’s urging to the Ephesians “to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love . . .” Reflecting upon her life, Faith commented, “I look back at the joys and sorrows, successes and failures, and waste no time wondering whether I made the right choice . . . I thank God for my life as a BVM.” And we thank God for the blessing Faith has been in our lives as we celebrate her entrance into eternal life.

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If you would like to give a memorial in honor of this Sister click here.


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Maura Purcell, BVM

Maura Purcell, BVM died Oct. 1, 2014, at Caritas Center in Dubuque, Iowa. The Natural Burial Rite of Committal will be held at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 3, 2014, in the Marian Hall Chapel. A Memorial Mass will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 24, 2014. Burial is in the Mount Carmel cemetery.

She was born in Omaha, Neb., on March 25, 1926, to Thomas and Cecelia (Ryan) Purcell. She entered the BVM congregation Sept. 8, 1944, from St. Bridget Parish, Omaha. She professed first vows on March 19, 1947, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1952.

Maura was an educator and music teacher in Chicago; Butte and Missoula, Mont.; San Francisco; Des Moines, Iowa; and Boulder, Colo. She served in pastoral ministry in Boulder, Denver and Arvada, Colo., and Kalamazoo, Mich.

She was preceded in death by her parents, brother Thomas, and sisters Patricia P. Devine and Peggy Purcell, BVM (Moira). She is survived by nieces and nephews, and the Sisters of Charity, BVM, with whom she shared life for 70 years.

Sister Maura Purcell, BVM
Memorial Mass Welcome
Marian Hall, Oct. 24, 2014

Good afternoon and welcome to the celebration of life of our Sister Maura Purcell.

Maureen Frances Purcell was born on March 24, 1926, in Omaha, Neb., as the third of four children born to Thomas Purcell and Cecilia Ryan. Her parents were Irish immigrants who met in the United States and instilled in their daughter a great love of their Irish heritage. Maureen’s mother was extremely charitable. She had a deep concern for the priests and sisters and often provided sausage for them to enjoy with their breakfast. Maureen received her love of learning from her father who had a limited education, but would read his children’s history books to learn more. Maureen’s older sister Patricia and brother Thomas both died in 2003. Her younger sister, Sister Peggy Purcell, BVM (Moira), entered the congregation in 1947 and died in 2002.

Maureen attended St. Bridget ES and St. Mary HS. She worked as a clerk at the Union Pacific Railroad headquarters prior to entering the community. On her application for admission, Maureen wrote, “By helping to save souls through prayer and good works I want to honor and glorify God and try to show my appreciations to Him for His gifts to me.” Maureen entered the congregation on Sept. 8, 1944, and received the name Maura upon her reception on March 19, 1945. She professed her first vows on March 19, 1947, and lived 70 years as a BVM.

Maura taught music for 26 years with missions in Chicago; Butte and Missoula, Mont.; San Francisco; Des Moines, Iowa; and Boulder, Colo. During an interview she said, “My memories are about the music . . . In the BVM community years ago the funds from music lessons sent the sisters to summer school to finish their degrees. I taught keyboarding and singing as well as classroom music.” Music truly was Maura’s passion as was made evident by her large collection of CDs.

In 1973, Maura carried her musical gifts into parish ministry at Sacred Heart of Mary and St. Thomas Aquinas Parishes in Boulder. She later served as liturgist and pastoral musician at St. Joseph Parish in Kalamazoo, Mich., and as pastoral assistant at Christ the King Parish in Denver. In 1986, Maura entered the clinical pastoral education program at Boulder Community Hospital. She later served 10 years as the music director at Shrine of St. Anne in Arvada, Colo. As a liturgical musician, she became known for her ability to inspire the entire congregation to sing. Maura moved to Mount Carmel in 2000 to be closer to her sister Peggy, whose health was declining.

Maura was an energetic and feisty woman who once commented, “My salvation is a [my] sense of humor . . . I can be mad but I will not be depressed!” She loved the outdoors, especially beautiful summer days. “When I was in Colorado” she recalled, “I would drive up to a mountain trail and just hike all alone . . . my solitary confinement.” Yet Maura cherished the people in her life. A sign posted on her door read “Wake me if I’m sleeping. I love company.” And when she celebrated her 70th jubilee a few weeks ago she made a point to individually thank the staff for the compassionate care.

Maura was also an intelligent woman with strong beliefs and an inquisitive mind who greatly enjoyed a lively conversation no matter the topic. She was an avid reader devoted to exploring new and challenging ideas and staying current on events in the community, the church and the world. Using the words of St. Paul, Maura was on a quest “to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth” of God. Over the past few years, the new cosmology became her central focus. Her choice of natural burial beautifully expresses her belief in the sacredness and interconnectedness of all living beings.

We celebrate Maura’s earthly life and her entrance into eternal life. Her questions are answered; her journey complete. May she rest in peace.

If you would like to give a memorial in honor of this Sister click here.


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Catherine (Katie) McHugh, BVM (St. Thoma)

Catherine (Katie) McHugh, BVM (St. Thoma), died Sept. 25, 2014, at Caritas Center in Dubuque, Iowa. Visitation will be from 9–11 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014, in the Marian Hall Chapel followed by a prayer service at 11 a.m. Funeral liturgy will be at 1:30 p.m. Burial is in the Mount Carmel cemetery.

She was born in Chicago on Sept. 12, 1925, to Thomas and Anne (O’Dolan) McHugh. She entered the BVM congregation Sept. 8, 1943, from St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Chicago. She professed first vows on March 19, 1946, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1951.

Catherine taught elementary school and was principal in Chicago and Maywood, Ill.; and Davenport, Dubuque and Iowa City, Iowa. In Chicago, she was director for Catholic Charities, Howard Area Community Center; staff member at 8th Day Center for Justice; regional representative for the BVM congregation; director of the Illinois Citizens for Better Care; director of the Intercommunity Retirement Network; and president of and volunteer for the Intercommunity Housing Corp., which built a senior housing complex on Roosevelt Road, now named the Catherine E. McHugh Senior Apartments. She was also co-director of the BVM Personnel Office.

She was preceded in death by her parents; sister Margaret Schneider and brother Msgr. Thomas McHugh (diocese of Winona, Minn.). She is survived by nieces and nephews, and the Sisters of Charity, BVM, with whom she shared life for 71 years.

Catherine McHugh, BVM (St. Thoma)
Funeral Welcome
Marian Hall, Oct. 2, 2014

Good afternoon and welcome to the celebration of life of our Sister Catherine McHugh. A special welcome to those viewing electronically, and to Katie’s friends and family who are here today. That so many of you have come is testimony to Katie’s uncommon ability to make and keep friends for life. As I look at your faces, I can almost outline Katie’s ministerial and social life. However, I and you will be better off if I stick to my script:

Catherine (Katie) Elizabeth McHugh entered this world on Sept. 12, 1925, in Chicago, as the youngest of three children born to Thomas McHugh and Anne O’Dolan, both of whom emigrated from Ireland. Her father worked as a street car conductor while her mother was a live-in domestic until they married. Katie’s father died of heart failure on Christmas day in 1957. In 1951, her mother suffered a severe stroke that altered her personality. Katie’s sister Margaret (Marge) and her husband Matt cared for Anne McHugh until her death from leukemia in 1968. When Marge’s health steadily declined after the death of her husband, the BVMs who lived with Katie on Sherwin (Rita Benz and Mary DeCock) graciously opened their home to Marge until retirement housing became available. She died in 1996. Katie’s brother Thomas (Mac) was a priest in the Diocese of Winona, Minn., and had served as an Air Force chaplain. He died in 1993.

Katie attended St. Vincent ES and St. Mary HS. In an interview, she said, “When I was a child, my friends and I liked the sisters who taught us so much that we would stay after school and sit around and goof off in the classrooms . . . That’s how much we loved these sisters. There was something about them that immediately pulled me towards them. I just knew instinctively that that’s exactly what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be.” Katie entered the congregation on Sept. 8, 1943, and received the name St. Thoma at her reception on March 19, 1944. She professed her first vows on March 19, 1946, and lived 71 years as a BVM.

Katie taught kindergarten, first, second and eighth grades as well as music for 23 years, with missions in Chicago and Maywood, Ill.; and Davenport, Iowa City, and Dubuque in Iowa. She also served as principal at St. Patrick in Dubuque and Iowa City. In addition, she worked as the Co-commissioner of BVM Personnel, overseeing the process of sisters applying to the schools of their choice.

Katie spent 37 years in the Chicago area ministering in the field of social justice. She worked for Catholic Charities as the director of the Howard Street Area Community Center, and in community relations for the Misericordia Home. She was a staff member at the 8th Day Center for Peace and Justice, and was a founding member of Illinois Citizens for Better Care, which pushed to pass the 1979 Illinois Nursing Home Reform Act. As a BVM regional representative, Katie was a member of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and participated in LCWR Region 8, which organized the Intercommunity Retirement Network to address health care issues of elderly religious. She served as the executive director for that Network and as president of the Intercommunity Housing Corporation it formed. Through her work as project coordinator, Roosevelt Place in Chicago was established as affordable housing for seniors, including married and single, women and men, religious and laity, as well as various races and ethnic groups. On Nov. 13, 2008, Roosevelt Place was renamed the McHugh Senior Center.

Katie was optimistic, exuberant, buoyant and tenacious. She was a person with an innate sense of justice who championed many an underdog. For Katie, advocacy was a way of life and even passion is too mild a word for her commitment to housing for senior religious in Chicago. It surely was a crusade. But Katie wasn’t always serious. Her sense of humor was never far away thanks to her twinkling eyes, big smile and, oh my, her Irish roots.  

Upon hearing of Katie’s death, an image of a giant redwood falling filled my head. Often a large redwood is ringed by a circle of younger, “daughter” redwoods. Recent research has shown that there exists an elaborate relationship between the root systems of the mother tree and her “offspring” wherein nutrients from the “parent” tree pass to the younger trees, enhancing their growth and well-being. These processes are thought to accelerate when the mother redwood begins to die.

Katie didn’t wait that long to nurture others. As convent superior, school principal, social worker, justice seeker, senior citizen advocate, BVM regional representative, beloved aunt and friend, she invited others into her circle of relationships without thinking twice. She mentored the young, schooled the idealistic, comforted those who were sad, encouraged those on an uphill climb. How many of us, after spending time with Katie, left with lighter hearts and renewed energy?

A mighty redwood has fallen but we, her family and friends, know that this is only the beginning for Katie. It’s highly likely that she’s already started organizing the communion of saints—we imagine God must be pleased with God’s work!

I want to end with an 80th birthday tribute to Katie written by a friend, “This is a marvelous breadth of ministry into which you creatively put yourself. But it is not just this list of work you have done, it is the SOUL, truly a ‘sanctified’ soul, you bring to whatever you do that we honor . . . We don’t just think it is God’s will that you became a BVM. We KNOW it is God’s will and feel so blessed to call you ‘Our Sister.’”

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If you would like to give a memorial in honor of this Sister click here.


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