Sister Mary McAuley Gillgannon, RSM (Religious Sister of Mercy), died peacefully Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016, at Mercy Villa in Omaha, Neb. She was 95.
Sister McAuley was born Margaret Aloysia on April 23, 1921, in Kansas City, Mo., to Dr. Matthew Aloysius and Josephine (Donovan) Gillgannon. She was the oldest of eight children. In 1937, after graduating from St. Agnes High School in Kansas City, Mo., Margaret entered the Sisters of Mercy at Mount Loretto in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Sister McAuley spent the first 13 years of her ministry in elementary schools as both a teacher and principal. She served at St. John School, Omaha (1940-41); St. Peter School, Omaha (1941-43); St. Peter School, Greeley, Colo. (1943-46); St. Mary’s Academy, Independence, Mo (1946-49); St. Patrick’s, Omaha (1949-53) – principal from 1950-53 and Holy Cross, Kansas City, Mo. (1972-73).
After receiving her master’s degree in history from Marquette University in 1958, Sister McAuley went on to earn a doctorate in modern European history from Notre Dame in 1961. Her dissertation, “The Sisters of Mercy as Crimean War Nurses,” increased her interest in Mercy history, and she went on to write papers and articles about it. She also taught younger Sisters about Catherine McAuley, foundress of the Sisters of Mercy and Sister McAuley’s namesake, and gave presentations at her religious community meetings. She also published a historical book in 1967 called Charles Stewart Parnell: Political Paradox.
Sister McAuley taught at College of Saint Mary, Omaha, Neb., from 1961-72. In 1965, she received a Fulbright Fellowship to study in the United Arab Republic and she spent that summer at a seminar in Cairo, Egypt. After taking a break from teaching to become a member of the leadership team for the Omaha Community (1973-79), she went back into academia and was the academic dean at Thomas More College, Ft. Mitchell, Ky. (1979-81), and then taught at University of Nebraska Omaha, Omaha, Neb. (1981-83, 1984-96); Creighton University, Omaha, Neb. (1981-83); and Dana College, Blair, Neb. (1983-84).
Sister Maryanne Stevens, RSM, president of College of Saint Mary, was proud to have Sister McAuley back at College of Saint Mary in 1996 as a Scholar in Residence saying, “Sister Mary McAuley taught numerous alumnae of College of Saint Mary to think critically and to question the status quo. She was an outstanding historian, a teacher known for high standards, and at that same time a very caring person.”
Sister McAuley is survived by her brother, Rev. Michael Gillgannon, who was a missionary priest and now resides in Kansas City, Mo. He co-presided at the funeral Mass on Thursday, Dec. 22, at 10 a.m. at Mercy Villa, 1845 S. 72nd St.