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The thread weaving through my life

Awed by the mystery of God’s action in our midst, we gratefully celebrate life.

You Are Sent, C 7.6

By Sister Mary Jacqueline (Jacque) Buckley
Sister Jackie Buckley sitting in the library at Trinity Woods on the Mount Mary University campus in Milwaukee.

Little did I realize in the fall of 1947, as I entered Mount Mary College (now University) (MMU) in Milwaukee as a college freshman from Chicago, that MMU would be like a thread weaving through my life. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree and my major was in dietetics. I decided not to do an internship in California, as planned, and instead took a summer school course in early childhood education and helped in a kindergarten classroom in my home parish in Chicago. I learned a lot about myself from 5-year-olds.

In the summer of 1952, I drove a few School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND) to summer school at Iowa State University (ISU) and decided to enroll there in the College of Home Economics. The registration line for foods and nutrition majors was long, while two gentlemen were sitting idle in the early childhood education booth, so I went to talk with them. By the end of my interview, I was offered an assistantship in the campus nursery school. I enjoyed life in this rural college community. I graduated with a master’s degree in early childhood education and a minor in foods and nutrition in the summer of 1954.

Plans to tour Europe with a few friends from ISU changed when I finally decided to respond to the “Hound of Heaven,” a poem title by Francis Thompson and enter the School Sisters of Notre Dame. But first, I spent two-and-a-half months in Europe on my own. I entered SSND in Milwaukee on November 1, 1954, and was professed in July 1956. After a year teaching at St. Michael High School in Chicago, I was sent to MMU as a faculty member in the home economics department.

From 1957 until 1975, I enjoyed being on the campus of my alma mater. In addition to being on the faculty, I also served as alumnae director and dean of students and director of the residence hall. It was during this time that we opened the childcare center to respond to the needs of moms with young children returning to college through the Ewens Center.

In 1975, I was elected provincial leader of the former Mequon Province with MMU being one of the ministries in higher education. From late 1982 until early 1993, my relationship to MMU was mostly from a distance since I was serving as a general councilor in our international congregation stationed at the Generalate in Rome.

After a short sabbatical and a one-year project for the North American provincials, I was asked to start a mission integration sponsorship office for the former Milwaukee Province. President Sally Mahoney and later, President O’Donoghue, fully supported the work of the office. Committees were formed of faculty and staff members. We established a Founder’s Day celebration and the criteria and presentation of the Mother Theresa and Mother Caroline Awards. During this time, I also was co-director of the province associates.

In 2006, I retired to volunteer in ministries in Milwaukee at Notre Dame Middle School, Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Cathedral Center, (a shelter for homeless women and children and families) and Our Lady of the Angels. It was during retirement that I served on the MMU board of trustees.

One of my hopes was that the childcare center established when I was dean of students, and still functioning, could be relocated to a larger space to meet ever-growing needs. We thought we had a donor and even started seeking a new location, but that dream never materialized.

Sister Jackie Buckley is talking to one of the cafeteria workers at Trinity Woods on the Mount Mary University campus in Milwaukee.

With the pandemic, all my volunteer activities abruptly stopped. I was able to do a few projects on the computer and then we began having more and more meetings via BlueJeans or Zoom. My life has been enriched by technology, but it can’t take the place of personal contact. When the dream of what would become Trinity Woods, an intergenerational living facility on MMU’s campus, began to take shape I on was on board from the beginning. Now, here I am in a bedroom with a view of the MMU Tower and the children from the daycare center playing under my windows. We have the opportunity to live with moms and little ones.

Dreams are fulfilled in God’s time, not always my time, and usually far better than I asked or imagined. God is always so generous. I am forever grateful to my SSND community, MMU and Milwaukee Catholic Home and all those who live here and serve us at Trinity Woods.

You can see the threads MMU has woven through my life.


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