sister mary alma monaghan

March 23, 1916-March 2, 2014

Kind, thoughtful, loving and generous

When Thomas and Bridget McKeever Monaghan came from Ireland seeking a better life for the family they hoped to have, they could not have dreamed how many young women and men their second daughter, Margaret, would influence by her joyful, caring personality. Margaret Elizabeth Monaghan was born in Kansas City, Mo., on March 23, 1916, and baptized at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church. Their parents saw to it that she and her sister Mary Anne were raised and educated in their Irish heritage and Catholic faith.

Margaret said that she decided to become a sister when she was six and first met sisters. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on September 15, 1934, was received into the novitiate in 1935 and was given the name Sister Mary Alma.

She began teaching in elementary schools in 1937. Her first assignment was St. Luke’s in Richmond Heights, Mo. That same year she taught at St. Peter’s in Oconto, Wis., followed by Cathedral in St. Louis in 1938. Sacred Heart, Muskogee, Okla., in 1939 was next and then Holy Cross in Champaign, Ill., in 1940. After that she spent 1946-1948 at St. Matthew’s in Mobile, Ala.

Throughout this time she was also working on a bachelor’s degree in Latin, which she received in 1948 from St. Louis University. In 1949 S. Mary Alma began her high school career, teaching Latin and algebra at Rosati-Kain in St. Louis. She earned her master’s in Latin from St. Louis University in 1953.

Her next home was Waco, Texas (1954-1956) where she taught Latin, religion, algebra and geometry at Waco Catholic High School. She returned to Rosati-Kain in St. Louis for eight years where she taught religion, algebra, practical math, and Latin, while also being a guidance counselor. From 1964 to 1968 she taught Latin and religion at St. Joseph Academy in Green Bay, Wis. She served as a guidance counselor at Little Flower High School in Chicago from 1968 to 1973, and then from 1973 to 1977 at St. Anthony of Padua High School in St. Louis.

During the next 16 years, S. Mary Alma taught Latin and/or math at St. Teresa’s Academy in Kansas City. In 1993 she took time off for family care but returned to St. Teresa’s as a volunteer in 1995 until she retired at Nazareth Living Center in 1998 where she continued to help others as long as she was able.

S. Mary Alma’s simple joy in living, her gentleness and quiet dignity made her delightful to be around. Many young sisters were tutored in the ways of community living (or of navigating lesson plans) through her guidance. When a student (or a young sister) found themselves to be in the wrong, S. Mary Alma pointed out the error in such a way that the person’s self esteem remained intact. 

She loved her students and wanted them to succeed. Though she taught other subjects, her love of teaching Latin inspired more than one generation of students. Those taught in the late 80s might choose to share their stories on Facebook, yet the stories are remarkably similar to those students taught in the 50s and 60s including the fun of being with her in just simple interactions.

S. Mary Alma is remembered as a kind and thoughtful person, a loving, caring, generous person, someone willing to go the extra mile to help and willing to listen to young dreams and anxieties, somehow knowing when to just listen and when to speak.

S. Helen Oates

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