Words Sometimes Fail Us
Words inadequately capture the intense life of Sister Pauline Grady whose 89 years encompassed her roles as teacher, writer, librarian, translator, social activist and prison chaplain. Born in Farmer City, Illinois on December 12, 1917 and baptized Margaret, she was the youngest child of Thomas and Julia (Kleiss) Grady. She was given the name Mary Pauline as she made first vows on July 2, 1934. She made final vows five years later.
She taught grade school for four years and earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Saint Louis University in 1941 and a master’s in 1943. She taught English and was the librarian for 27 years St. Teresa Academy in East St. Louis.
She spent 1966 to 1968 at the Generalate in Rome to learn Italian and community history and returned there in the early 1980s to translate from Italian to English and English to Italian and to write.
Those years resulted in several books: Girl in a Hurry (1963), Alma Mater STA (1974), Ruma: Home and Heritage (1984), Joy in the Planting (1994) and translations into English of The Adorers of the Blood of Christ in the Church and in the World, 1834-1984 by Antonietta Maraone, ASC in 1984 and Obedient Rebel by Michele Colagiovanni in 1991.
Pauline immersed herself in social justice and race relations while living in the late 1960s and early 1970s in racially divided and tense East St. Louis.
She worked to get an aldermanic form of government for the city and acted as campaign manager for honest candidates for public office. Of her social justice years in East St. Louis, she wrote:
“I was present at a crossroads at a time when the ASCs were offering leadership in the city. If ever Maria’s original idea was lived out in new circumstances, I feel it was done by the Sisters in the inner city during those, hectic, grace-burnt years.”
She was one of the 17 Sisters and others arrested on July 22, 1969 in Springfield, Illinois to protest treatment of African-Americans in Cairo, Illinois. In 1985, she began another ministry as prison chaplain at a correctional facility in Grants, N.M. She continued to write and do chaplaincy at a federal prison when she lived from 1989 to 2003 in Springfield, Missouri.
Dementia in the final years of her life took the words away, a deep grief for this wordsmith, language lover and conversationalist.
Yet, in her final days, she gave a silent “yes” to returning an active, word-filled life to the Word Made Flesh.