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Remembering Sister Barbara McCarry, OSB

Updated: Feb 18, 2022

Our dear Sister Barbara McCarry, OSB passed away peacefully on the evening of Wednesday, February 2nd. We thank God for her life; the impact she had on our community and the generations of our alumnae at St. Scholastica Academy, Queen of All Saints, and as well as a Curriculum Consultant for the Chicago Board of Education. She passed into the loving arms of God, and the Sisters who have gone before her are there to welcome her. The Mass of Resurrection for Sister Barbara will be held Monday, February 7th at 5 pm. If you would like to join us virtually, please email by 3 pm Monday, Feb. 7th and a link will be sent to you. Please join us in thanking God for her remarkable life!

Worship Aid Sister Barbara McCarry OSB
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Barbara Ann McCarry around five years of age, second from the left, with family.

Barbara Ann McCarry was born in Chicago, Illinois, on June 15, 1939. Her parents were Henry and Mary McCarron McCarry, of Donegal, Ireland. The McCarry’s lived and raised their family on the near southside of Chicago, in the Bridgeport neighborhood. Barbara was one of five children, with three sisters and a brother. She was baptized on July 2.

She and her family belonged to the parish of St. Anthony de Padua, where she attended elementary school. She then went on to Maria High School. For college, she enrolled at Mount St. Scholastica in Atchison, Kansas, where, in 1961 she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Barbara Ann McCarry around five years of age, center, with family.

Barbara was an ambitious young woman and spent her college summers working. She did some secretarial work in 1957, and also taught tennis for the Chicago Park District every summer.

Her first full-time position was as an English teacher for the academic year 1961–1962 at a Chicago public high school. At the end of that year, she worked at Camp San Benito, based in Cañon City, Colorado, serving alongside the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago.

Sister (Barbara) Mary Justin holding a small child in the late 1960s.

On September 12, 1962, Barbara entered the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago. She had had a lifetime acquaintance with the Sisters, as Mary McCarry, one of her older sisters, had been a member of St. Scholastica Monastery for a time. After her postulancy, on July 11, 1963, Barbara was invested as a novice and given the religious name Sister Mary Justin.

She professed triennial vows on August 16, 1964, and her final profession was December 29, 1968. Her years of fidelity included the celebrations of her Silver Jubilee in 1989 and her Golden Jubilee in 2014. Her fifty-eight years as a vowed Benedictine included further education and a variety of ministries.

In March of 1963 she earned an Illinois State Teacher certification. In addition to the BA from Mt. St. Scholastica, she earned an MA from Northwestern University in 1975 (pictured above). Sister Barbara did post-graduate work in Theology, including courses in the summer school of Theology at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, MN.

Sister Barbara with Sister Mercedes Moore, OSB teaching at St. Scholastica Academy.

A seasoned educator, her earliest work as Benedictine was teaching in elementary schools, first at St. Hilary and then at Queen of All Saints. She then taught for six years at Saint Scholastica High School in Chicago and then became Curriculum Director for three years. From 1978 until 1993 she served as principal of Queen of All Saints School.

Sister Barbara McCarry, OSB

After a time of illness and recuperation, Sister Barbara trained and became a probation officer in Chicago. Her new work at the Juvenile Court Building included outreach to the detention centers in St. Charles and Warrenville. After two years, she returned to education, accepting a position as Curriculum Consultant for the Chicago Board of Education.

While serving in that role she was engaged in Renaissance 2010, a experiment in education promoted by Mayor Richard M. Daley to create 100 new schools, especially charter schools, to replace existing failing schools. For Sister Barbara, it was a smooth transition to work with charter schools. Her 2008 employment was as a consultant for the network of UNO charter schools.

Sister Barbara (left) Sister Catherine Lynch, OSB (second from the left) pictured with Mayor Richard M. Daley (center).

Sister Barbara’s varied and active ministry ended in 2012, when she moved to St. Joseph Court, the infirmary section of the St. Scholastica Monastery. There she was able to receive needed care as her arthritis became more and more painful.

As one by one the members of her family passed away, Sister Barbara’s friends became more important to her. Her strong personality, her quick wit, and her ability to adjust speedily to changing situations were three characteristics that served her well. She made a lasting impression on people who came to know her.

Sister Barbara McCarry, OSB (right) at her Golden Jubilee (50th) in 2014

Sister Barbara also took an interest in other people’s families and their concerns.

Sister Barbara received the anointing of the sick with the community present and was alert during that rite. In hospice for several weeks, toward the end, she became unresponsive. Sister Barbara died peacefully on February 2, 2022. The Mass of Resurrection was February 7, and she was interred at the All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines, Illinois. Sister Barbara is remembered and mourned by her Benedictine Sisters and numerous friends.

The late Sister Ann Sharp, OSB, and Sister Barbara McCarry, OSB from 2017.

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I was lucky enough to be taught history in the interdisciplinary World History and English course co-taught by Sr. Barb McCary from fall of 1973 through spring of 1975. To me, it was primarily a history class – the literature born of the historical events; the literature being the emotional history of the time. This two-year course included the music, art and theology of each period studied. It was the best history course I have ever taken, including history courses taken in college. Sr. Barb taught us to find original sources. She brought in guest speakers. She taught us to think critically and compassionately about historical events. She helped us envision what it might have been like to live …

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