Obituary Mary Nona McGreal was distinguished educator, historian

mcgreal_mary_nona_webSister Mary Nona McGreal, OP, died March 20, 2013, at St. Dominic Villa, Sinsinawa.

Sister Mary Nona McGreal made her first religious profession as a Sinsinawa Dominican Sister March 8, 1933, and her final profession Aug. 5, 1936. She taught in elementary schools of the congregation for eight years, including St. Clement, Sheboygan, Wis., 1933; St. Brendan, Chicago, 1933–1937; and St. Thomas the Apostle, Chicago, 1937–1941. Sister Mary Nona completed her graduate studies at the Catholic University of America, receiving her Ph.D. in 1951. With Sister Mary Joan Smith, OP, she developed a widely used new curriculum for U.S. Catholic schools, publishing the three-volume work “Guiding Growth in Christian Social Living: A Curriculum for the Elementary School” during the 1940s.

In 1950, Sister Mary Nona became the president of Edgewood College, Madison, Wis. During her 18 years as president, she dramatically transformed the small college, adding new buildings, increasing and diversifying student enrollment, developing a strong faculty, achieving national accreditation and establishing a core curriculum. In 1968, she was elected by her sisters to serve as vicaress of the Sinsinawa Dominican Congregation, and she held this post of leadership until 1977.

From 1977 to 1984, Sister Mary Nona worked both in Rome and in the United States, preparing the official Positio, a comprehensive summary of all the documentation regarding the Cause for Beatification of Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, OP, founder of the Sinsinawa Dominican Congregation and pioneer priest on the 19th century Midwest frontier. The completion of the Positio was a crucial step in the long process leading to Pope John Paul II’s declaration in 1993 that Father Mazzuchelli be known as “Venerable,” the first step toward canonization in the Catholic Church.

From 1984 to 2007, she worked with Project OPUS (research regarding the history of the Order of Preachers in the United States), serving as the project’s director from 1989 to 2006. She was honored in 2006 with having the OPUS headquarters on the Dominican University, River Forest, Ill., campus named the Mary Nona McGreal, OP, Center for Dominican Historical Studies. Currently, the McGreal Center houses an archive of history of the various branches of the Dominican Order in this country and is the hub of continuing research into that history. In 2008, Sister Mary Nona was the first woman to be named to the Historical Commission of the Order of Preachers.

Besides the Guiding Growth in Christian Social Living books, Sister Mary Nona authored the biography “Journeyman, Preacher, Pastor, Teacher—Samuel Mazzuchelli: American Dominican” and was the general editor of “Dominicans at Home in a Young Nation: 1776-1865,” Volume I of “The Order of Preachers in the United States: A Family History.”

Sister Mary Nona was born April 20, 1914, in Waukegan, Ill., the daughter of Thomas and Margaret (Kehoe) McGreal. Her parents; two sisters, Margaret Dolan and Alice O’Shea, and two brothers, Thomas McGreal and Robert McGreal, preceded her in death. She is survived by a sister, Ruth O’Grady; nieces; nephews; and her Dominican Sisters with whom she shared life for 80 years.

A wake and remembering service was held Monday, March 25. The funeral Mass was Tuesday, March 26 at Sinsinawa Mound, followed by burial in the Motherhouse Cemetery. Broadcasts of Sister Mary Nona’s wake and funeral are available for viewing online through the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters’ livestream video archive. Click on the “On Demand” tab in the upper right column, then click on title of the broadcast you wish to view.

Memorials may be made to the McGreal Center, Dominican University, 7900 West Division St., River Forest, IL 60305.