Sister Margaret James Laughlin, OSBMay 25, 1920 ~ April 9, 2017 (age 96)
Sister Margaret James Laughlin, OSB, 96, died at St. Scholastica Monastery April 9, 2017. She was in her 75th year of Benedictine Monastic Profession.
Sister Margaret James (Kathleen) was born on May 25, 1920, in Iron Mountain, Michigan, to James and Margaret Dillon Laughlin. She was third of four children until age seven, when her parents became legal guardians of seven first cousins and they became a thriving family of 11 children. There was no Catholic elementary or high school in Iron Mountain, so Sister graduated from Iron Mountain High School in 1937 and worked for a year as a clerical employee of the State of Michigan Old Age Assistance Bureau.
Sister’s mother wanted each of her children to have at least one year in a Catholic school. Since a first cousin was enrolled in the College of St. Scholastica (CSS), Kathleen decided to enroll there in 1938. She found the College very satisfying, and in her third year of classes, she decided to enter the Benedictine community. Sister Margaret James completed her novitiate in 1941, professed First Vows on July 11, 1942, and Perpetual Vows on July 11, 1945. She celebrated her Silver Jubilee in August, 1967; her Golden Jubilee on July 28, 1992; and her Diamond Jubilees in 2002 (60 years) and 2012 (70 years).
Sister Margaret James had a strong, quick, and disciplined intellect, which she exercised in all her Community ministries accompanied by her twinkling blue eyes and winning Irish smile. She completed her B.A. in history at The College of St. Scholastica and her M.A. in education at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. From 1944 to 1949, she taught business courses at Cathedral Senior High in Duluth. She served as Assistant Principal to Father Hogan at Cathedral from 1951 to 1961; Principal at Stanbrook Hall from 1961 to 1967; Registrar at CSS from 1968 to 1976; and Assistant to the President at CSS from 1976 to 1991. Former College President Dan Pilon remembered Sister Margaret James as the “College’s own Radar O’Reilly, with a down-to-earth solution to any impossible problem.”
From 1991 to 2008, Sister served as Secretary/Records coordinator for Monastery Development. In addition, she served twelve years on the St. Joseph Hospital Board, and six years on the Board of St. Mary’s in Duluth. She was also a faithful member of Monastery standing committees, including Long-Range Planning, the Committee on Committees and Finance Committee. She served as Chair of the Sesquimillenium (celebrating 1,500 years of the Benedictine Order), Self-Study/Visitation, Council Election, and Centennial Steering committees.
After Vatican II ended in 1966, the Catholic Church declared a 15 year period of experimentation, addressing old problems, including large group living, in new ways. One experiment was “small-group living.” In the fall of 1970, Sister joined a small group of six sisters, including her blood sister, Sister Monica. The group was so successful that they shared over 40 years of living together. Along with these six sisters came a series of dogs to make their home complete. Sister Margaret James loved those dogs dearly, along with gardening, watching Viking games on television, playing ping pong, cribbage and Boggle. While she would not ever serve as cook, she kept financial records, handled snow blowing, and performed a myriad of other tasks encountered by the group with constant good will and Irish humor. She was truly a dedicated servant to her family, her community, her ministries, and her God.
Sister Margaret James was preceded in death by her parents, her brothers William and Thomas, her beloved sister, Sister Monica, and her seven cousins. Besides the Sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery, she is survived by many nieces, nephews and cousins. Her wake will be held April 22, 2017, at 9:30 a.m., with Mass of Christian burial at 11:00 a.m. in Our Lady Queen of Peace Chapel, Father Tom Foster presiding. Interment will be at 1:00 p.m. in Gethsemane Cemetery. Arrangements will be made by Dougherty Funeral Home. Memorials to St. Scholastica Monastery are preferred.