The Passing of “Moral Giants”

The Passing of “Moral Giants” April 12, 2024

Sr. Peg’s passing surprised me! She was such a force for good who continued serving far beyond retirement age that she almost seemed immortal. As I searched for her obituary, I found that her twin, Sr. Mary Pat, had also died a few weeks before as had another sister, Sr. Jude. A fellow parishioner, Stan, had also passed away. The religious women were champions of social justice. These women and that man are moral giants in my mind. I feel overwhelmed, sad, and in need of self-examination.

Aware Yet Unaware

The passing of these great people should not surprise me. The twins were 90. Sr. Jude was 83.  Stan was 94. Each served so long that they did not seem vulnerable to the ravages of age and time.

Sisters Peg and Mary Pat

Snow-covered Mt. Rainier backed by a blue sky
Our area is blessed by the giant Mt. Rainier. Moral giants also bless my city. Photo by author

Sr. Peg and Sr. Mary Pat were two of three biological Irish sisters who responded to the invitation to join an American religious order of women. The twins were seventeen when they sailed to the United States and became novices on the West Coast. The third sister survives them, but I do not know her age.

The sisters spent years teaching. In their later years, they were champions of social justice.  Sr. Mary Pat spent many years working with people struggling with addiction. She was interested in challenges faced by Native Americans, worked for peace with Pax Christi, advocated for immigrants, protested human trafficking, and supported vulnerable women. Sr. Peg served on numerous nonprofit boards and was the director of an organization serving women in our area for ten years or more in her seventies and eighties. She also advocated for human trafficking victims, people experiencing homelessness, and other people denied human rights.

Sister Jude

Sister Jude was born in San Francisco and was a member of another religious order that founded several hospitals in the area.  She earned a nursing and hospital administration degree, served in the administration of these hospitals, and then became the administrator of the order’s retirement community.  She too was an advocate for justice. All three of these sisters served on the board of a house that was an oasis for women which is how I met them.


I met Stan in a parish Catholic program for married couples. He and his wife Maryann lived in one area of the city but moved when they heard that a Catholic Church was going to be built in another area. This fact impressed me.

Stan brought his wife to church every week. Maryann was in a wheelchair, and she always looked beautiful. Her hair, makeup, and nails were done, and she was wearing a lovely outfit. After Maryann passed away, Stan came to church on his own. He was almost bent over completely. Stan was a Knight of Columbus and a founding member of the parish.

The Moral Giants and Me

These people were part of the “Greatest Generation” or were born a few years afterward. They worked hard, used their time to serve others, and advocated for vulnerable people and for peace. They were larger-than-life and now they have passed away.

We have heard about Nelson Mandela lately in part because Donald Trump compares himself to Mandela. Mr. Trump is not a moral giant, but Mandela is and has inspired so many during his life and after death. I need to consider how I can take up one or more of the ministries or concerns of my local moral giants. I can no longer rely on those who have passed away to carry the torch for vulnerable people in our community.

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