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May 20, 2019, Chicago – During almost 30 years as Mother General of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, Mother Mary Gerald Barry sent Sisters to teach in schools throughout the United States — 50 schools in Illinois alone — and encouraged the Sisters to pursue their own education.
Mother Gerald (1881-1961) was recognized for her education efforts on April 27, 2019, when she was inducted into the Irish American Hall of Fame during an awards gala at the Irish Heritage Center in Chicago. She was one of nine to be inducted in 2019. Others were recognized in the areas of arts and humanities, business and industry, public service, religion, science, and sports, and as the “Hometown Hero.”
Established in 2010, the Irish American Hall of Fame seeks to “preserve the ‘story’ of the Irish in America.”
“Mother Gerald Barry was always concerned about education, including her own,” said Sister Kathleen Klingen, OP, who accepted the award on behalf of the Adrian Dominican Sisters. “As early as age 4, back in County Clare [Ireland], she followed her brothers and sisters to school and got away with it.”
Sister Kathleen, Chapter Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Dominican Midwest Mission Chapter based in Chicago, recounted the many ways that Mother Gerald encouraged education. She built schools, including Regina Dominican High School in Wilmette, Illinois, and Barry College (now University) in Miami Shores – schools still sponsored by the Congregation. During Mother Gerald’s term of office, 1933 through 1961, students were educated by Adrian Dominican Sisters in 189 elementary and secondary schools in the United States, as well as in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas.
“Mother Gerald insisted that Sisters be educated with at least one master’s degree and encouraged Sisters to continue to study,” Sister Kathleen said. “More than one master’s degree or a doctorate was always welcomed.” Mother Gerald also offered free tuition to Sisters from small or foreign groups at both Siena Heights College (now University) in Adrian, Michigan, and at Barry. “Consequently, Catholic Sisters are among the most highly educated women of American society,” Sister Kathleen said.
Also, she noted the April 29 Feast Day of Dominican St. Catherine of Siena, “a bold preacher, teacher, and woman of vision in the 14th century. We would do well to remember Mother Mary Gerald Barry as a visionary preacher, master of education who emulated the audacity of our sister Catherine in our own time.”
Finally, Sister Kathleen noted that Mother Gerald had sent Adrian Dominican Sisters to staff 50 schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago, the Diocese of Rockford, and the Diocese of Joliet. “If you have benefited from a good Catholic education, thank Mother Gerald and her confreres in other congregations of women.”
The full story of Mother Gerald’s ministry as Mother General can be found in To Fields Near and Far by the late Sister Nadine Foley, OP. The book can be ordered through the Weber Center Shop at 517-266-4035.