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May 28, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – Sister Mary Margaret “Sis” Beh, OP – formerly known as Sister Ann Pauline – celebrated her 100th birthday today as she desired: simply, in the company of her Sister friends who live in her community at the Dominican Life Center in Adrian, and with the opportunity to speak with distant family members.
Yet, the spirit of celebration extended within and beyond the Adrian Dominican Sisters Motherhouse Campus as she received more than 100 birthday cards from near and far. In the same way, the impact of more than 70 years of Sis’s religious life has been felt by people East and West: from her years of teaching art in the Eastern part of the United States to her years as a hospital chaplain at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, California.
“I have enjoyed my religious life very much,” Sis said in an interview. “It’s been a very special calling that I’ve been grateful for. I wouldn’t change it for anything. Had I chosen another way of living I wouldn’t have had the wonderful opportunities that I had in my life.”
Born in Birmingham, Michigan, on May 27, 1920, she was baptized Mary Margaret Beh after her mother, Margaret Mary. Her two older brothers, Joseph and Robert, found that name too cumbersome and simply called her Sister. In time her name was shortened to “Sis.” She was followed years later by her sister Pauline, for whom she chose her religious name, Sister Ann Pauline.
Sis was educated by Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM Sisters) in elementary school and by Adrian Dominican Sisters at St. Mary High School in Royal Oak, Michigan. After beginning her studies at Siena Heights College (now University) in Adrian, she entered the Adrian Dominican Congregation in January 1939. She holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a Master’s in Fine Arts, both from Siena Heights.
After teaching at the elementary level for seven years, Sis was sent to teach art at Dominican High School in Detroit for 10 years; Regina Dominican High School in Wilmette, Illinois, for a couple of years; Hoban Dominican High School in Cleveland, Ohio, for nine years; and back at Dominican High School for four years. All three schools were sponsored and staffed by the Adrian Dominican Sisters.
Sis found great joy in her ministry as an art teacher. “It’s very exciting to watch young people become creative and find a creative spirit of their own,” she said. “I enjoyed my teaching, watching people become creative and excited about what they were capable of doing.”
After years of teaching, Sis Beh and Sister Jeanne Burns, OP, decided to become hospital chaplains and undertook the year-long Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program to train for this ministry. After earning her CPE certification in Houston, Texas, Sis worked at County Hospital in Houston for a year and began 20 years of ministry as a chaplain at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz: 10 years in a paid position and 10 years as a volunteer.
Sis recalled a conversation with a patient, in which they spoke of God’s love for him. “I realized at that moment that I was loved by God and I never felt like that before or after,” she said. She said serving as chaplain gave her the opportunity to minister one-on-one and to form relationships.
She retired in 2000 at the age of 80, but continued to live in Santa Cruz and to minister as a volunteer. She returned to the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse in 2010 and remained as active as possible ever since.
She has words of advice to anybody who feels he or she might be called to religious life. “Follow your dream,” she said. “If it leads to a religious vocation, honor it, because it is a beautiful life.”
Learn more about Sis’s life in a December 2015 A Sister’s Story interview and in the 2018 video, Ripples of Faith: A Sister's Story.
Sister friends gather in a solarium on their floor in the Dominican Life Center to celebrate the 100th birthday of Sister Mary Margaret “Sis” Beh, OP. Photo by Angie Lieto
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.