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Sister Margaret Ann Hagan, OSU
Conferral speech for the Distinguished Alumnus Award
 given at the 2007 Saint Meinrad Alumni Reunion
 Presented July 24, 2007

by Father Richard M. Ginther,President of the Alumni Board of Directors

Sr. Margaret Ann Hagan, OSU

This year marks the 79th time Saint Meinrad Alumni have gathered for their annual reunion.  Seventeen years ago, the alumni association began honoring deserving alumni as “distinguished.”


The first recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award was the late Monsignor Alfred Horrigan, a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville and founder of Bellarmine University.


Other recipients of the award have included Benedictine Father Theodore Heck; Baltimore Archbishop William D. Borders; the late Father Jim Sweeney of Indianapolis; Benedictine Father Boniface Hardin; Monsignor Jack Bendik of the Diocese of Scranton; the late Monsignor Jerry Neufelder of Evansville; Father Larry Richardt of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis; musician Charlie Gardner of Indianapolis; Benedictine Father Cyprian Davis; the late Fr. Bill Deering of Evansville and Evansville Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger.


Tonight, this esteemed alumni association honors its 13th recipient.  And for the first time in its history, the recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award is not an alumnus.  She is an alumna.


In the 16th century, an Italian woman named Angela Merici gathered a small company of women friends – widows and virgins alike – and founded “the company of St. Ursula.”  In 1858, the first Ursuline sisters arrived in Louisville, Kentucky.  More than a century later, our distinguished alumna, Sister Margaret Ann Hagan, answered the call to follow St. Angela Merici’s way of life.


Born and raised in Louisville, the third of three children, Sister Margaret Ann attended Holy Sprit grade school and Sacred Heart Academy for high school.  Having been educated by Ursulines her entire life, she entered the community after graduating from high school in 1964.


Sister Margaret Ann’s introduction to Saint Meinrad came fifteen years later in the summer of 1979.  When she arrived, her intention was merely to take a class – really nothing more than a little bit of continuing education.  But as is the case for so many of us, one taste of Saint Meinrad just wasn’t enough for Sister Margaret Ann.  She returned the following summer.  And again the following summer.  And then another summer.  When she earned her Master’s Degree in Theological Studies in 1984, Sister Margaret Ann had returned six consecutive summers.  The rest of those years she spent in parish ministry in Rock Island, Illinois.


As much good as she was doing in parish ministry, the Ursulines needed her gifts back home.  So from 1986 to 1990, Sister Margaret Ann returned to Louisville as the Ursulines’ director of finance.  Still, the cherished memories of her time at Saint Meinrad called to her.  So when the opportunity presented itself, she returned to Saint Meinrad to take on several roles in the School of Theology.  Margaret Ann was an instructor in pastoral studies.  She was the associate dean for lay students.  And she was the assistant director of supervised ministry.  In all three roles, she spent a substantial amount of time with students and had great impact upon their pastoral formation.


In 1996, the Louisville Ursuline community elected her to be their vice president.  With her election, the Ursulines again recognized and affirmed her skills with community leadership.  Regretfully for Saint Meinrad, it meant greater responsibility and a greater time commitment to her sisters back in Louisville. She eventually - and reluctantly - resigned from her positions in the School of Theology.


Sister Margaret Ann’s ministry to the Ursulines spreads beyond Louisville.  Since 2002, she has been coordinator of the Ursuline Society Collaboration Project, a national post in which she is working to develop a vision and model for future community collaborations.  The 21st-century face of the Ursulines in the United States will, in no small way, be a reflection of the work Sister Margaret Ann is doing now.


Thankfully, her resignation from her positions in the School of Theology did not signal the end to her relationship with Saint Meinrad.  Sister Margaret Ann still today provides a reflection workshop for students in Saint Meinrad’s lay degree program.  Since 1999, she has provided spiritual direction for first-year theology students on their annual week-long silent retreat.  And Sister Margaret Ann also remains affiliated with the School of Theology as she works toward certification in the School’s program of supervision of Pastoral Ministry.


Beyond her work in the School of Theology, Sister Margaret Ann served on the Summer Session Alumni Board of Directors and on the Alumni Association Board of Directors after both boards were combined.  She serves on the board of directors of “Project Women,” a ministry in the city of Louisville that works to lift single, homeless mothers out of poverty.  Sister Margaret Ann also fills a much-needed role in today’s church through her work of giving retreats and spiritual direction to those seeking a deeper relationship with God.


Dr. Tom Walters, Academic Dean for the School of Theology, had this to say about Sr. Margaret Ann:  “She is a joy to work with, strongly committed to Saint Meinrad, and just a very nice friend and colleague to have.”


During the 16th century, Brescia, Italy was marked by war, political and social instability, ecclesiastical abuse and great distress within families.  Into this scene of hardship and strife came a young woman named Angela Merici.  What the people of Brescia found in Angela was a person they could approach without fear, who could listen and advise, who could speak to them of God, and who reflected the holiness of deep personal prayer.  Angela Merici was a peacemaker whom people would often approach for consolation, counsel and spiritual direction.


Were you to ask the Saint Meinrad seminarians and lay students about the gifts they find and have found in Sister Margaret Ann Hagan, they would likely respond in a similar manner to what those in 16th-century Brescia, Italy, said about Angela Merici:  Margaret Ann is a person one can approach without fear, who listens and advises well, who speaks about a loving God, and who reflects the holiness of deep personal prayer.


In 1807 – two hundred years ago – Pope Pius VII officially canonized Angela Merici, declaring her a saint of the church.  Tonight, a daughter of Angela Merici is chosen by the Saint Meinrad Alumni Association as one of its distinguished alumni.  We are honored to name Sister Margaret Ann Hagan – peacemaker, pastoral minister, and spiritual counselor – as the 13th recipient of the Saint Meinrad Distinguished Alumnus Award.


Saint Meinrad Office of Alumni Relations
200 Hill Drive
St. Meinrad, Indiana 47577

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