Remembrance of the Life of Sister Maureen (formerly Sister Ann Maureen) McCormack SL
Maureen Frances McCormack was born in St. Louis, the third of four daughters born to John Clement McCormack of Waukon, Iowa, and Ozzara Deluhery of Los Angeles. Maureen’s older sisters, Janet and Jean, were twins barely a year older than Maureen; their youngest sister Mary Beth arrived six years after Maureen. Although Maureen was baptized at the St. Louis Cathedral, the young family were soon located in the old St. Louis suburb of Kirkwood. We learn more about the McCormacks from Msgr. Alphonse Westhoff, in his letter recommending that Maureen be accepted into the novitiate of the Sisters of Loretto: “Maureen has lived in [my] parish [St. Peter’s, Kirkwood] with her parents ever since she was a little girl in the first grade. … Both her father and mother are devout Catholics and have always been active members of our parish. Mr. McCormack has long served with a few other men of the parish as one of my closest advisers. Both her parents have the best kind of Catholic educational background and their home is such that one would expect vocations to be fostered there.”
Maureen completed eight grades at St. Peter School, where she was taught by the Ursuline Sisters, who no doubt were part of the reason she started high school at Ursuline Academy in Kirkwood. After her freshman year Maureen transferred to the Sisters of Loretto high school, Nerinx Hall, where she starred in the all-school musicals and took part in many extracurricular activities. Nerinx Principal Sister Mary Luke Tobin signed her diploma in 1950, and Maureen went on to Webster College, majoring in elementary education and taking part in even more extracurricular activities. The College Dean, Sister Rose Maureen Sanders, wrote in recommending Maureen for the novitiate that Maureen took an important part in student government, sodality, and all campus activities; she was Student Government president in her senior year. Immediately after her graduation in the spring of 1954, Maureen wrote to Rev. Mother Felicitas, “For some time I have felt that God has blessed me with a vocation to the religious life. I received a bachelor of arts degree in elementary education this year and would like to be considered for admittance to the Loretto Motherhouse as a postulant in the fall. … This summer I am going on an educational tour of Europe and we are not scheduled to return until the seventh of September. Sister Mariella has said that she wrote to you about a special entrance date in my case. I hope that this can be arranged.”
The special entrance date was arranged and Maureen caught up with her postulant class on Oct. 10, 1954 — having arrived from Europe and stayed home until after her October birthday. She and her classmates were received on May 24, 1955, and Maureen was known as Sister Ann Maureen for the next dozen years, after which she returned to the baptismal form of her name. In 1957 Maureen professed her first vows and was missioned, after a summer at the House of Studies, to St. Michael’s parochial school, which had opened in Houston just three years earlier. For three years she taught fifth and seventh grades, spending her summers at Webster College, Loretto Heights and St. Louis University. Then in 1960-61 she enrolled full time at Denver University, while living at the Heights where she served as Residence Hall Director. She completed her master’s in guidance and counseling in 1961 and continued serving at the Heights, where in 1964 she was appointed Dean of Students, a position she filled for six years. In those years Maureen completed the course work and research papers that qualified her for a doctorate in psychology from Denver University in 1968.
In 1970 the Sisters of Loretto began a new venture in government under the presidency of Sister Helen Sanders. Like all superiors general before her, Helen organized her administration as seemed reasonable for the times. New in Helen’s administration was the separation of staff and line functions. Helen divided the staff work into two departments led by full time directors. Helen asked Marian McAvoy to serve as Director of Work Development and Maureen to serve as Director of Personnel, a title soon changed to Director of Community Life Development. Among the many services Maureen provided was the facilitation of community-building workshops and consultations for local households as they learned to navigate life “after the changes.” Under Maureen’s guidance, the program of formation for new members was gradually revised to reflect the needs and religious experience of modern young women.
Maureen served as vice-president of the Community, with Marian McAvoy as president, from 1978 to 1986. During these years she worked on the Executive Committee for the Community and as a human resources consultant for other religious and lay communities and organizations. She became certified as a leader for the Ira Progoff Intensive Journal workshops, and began offering Journal workshops for personal and spiritual growth. Over a period of 25 years she traveled throughout the country and pioneered offering Journal workshops for women in prison.
Maureen was elected president of the Sisters of Loretto and Loretto Community, serving from 1986 to 1994. A major focus of her presidency was to give priority to new understandings of humans’ relationship to earth and the cosmos. She began serving on the board of directors of Eco-Justice Ministries, an interfaith group which describes eco-justice as the well-being of all humankind on a thriving planet. When Maureen’s term as president was completed, she returned to her earlier focus as a human resources consultant. Through appointed and volunteer service on boards and committees of many organizations, Maureen had been able to bring together and deepen her several core interests: ecological sensitivity, interfaith respect and collaboration, planning for youth development and student rights, and always the spiritual and personal growth that comes about through journaling. Her final gift to Loretto was to allow a recent compilation and printing of reflections from her own journals.
Maureen’s was a bright, optimistic, forward-looking personality. Her Journal Reflections reveal the depths that illuminated her bright smile. She wrote, “Yes, I’ve seen many things in these decades of living. But only through a glass darkly. … I have gotten the general lay of the land … But there is so much more to the whole universe than the general lay of the land. Do I think my eyes will hold out, carry me through this more intense viewing? I will use more than my eyes. I will use my whole being and make contact with the whole universe. Run it by me again. This time I will really see it.”