Mother Gerald Barry, OP (1940-1961)
Born in the west of Ireland in County Clare in 1881, Mother Gerald Barry, OP, was known for her “sparkling Irish wit” and unshakeable determination. As one of 18 children, she had a deep love for her mother and father who she remembered as kind and generous people with a strong faith. “My mother taught me everything I know. My father was strict, kind, generous and religious. He was neither wealthy nor good looking, but neither am I. My mother was not good looking, but she was considered the most beautiful woman by me,” she said at one time when asked about her parents.
Mother Gerald followed in the footsteps of several of her siblings when she immigrated to the United States in 1900. She attended Northwestern University and Detroit Teacher’s College, receiving a bachelor’s degree from Siena Heights College in Adrian, Michigan. She entered the Dominican Order in 1912 and was elected Prioress General of the Dominican Sisters of the Congregation of the Most Holy Rosary in 1933, a position she held until her death in 1961.
Under Mother Gerald’s direction, the Congregation and its ministries grew extensively. In her 28 years as prioress general, the order opened three hospitals and 69 parochial schools throughout the country as well as the Colegio Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republican. During her tenure she was responsible for the education of approximately 100,000 students in 189 elementary and secondary Catholic schools in the United States and the Caribbean and supervised 197 houses of teaching sisters across the country.
In addition to her role as founder, she also oversaw the first major program of growth and expansion at Barry, which included the construction of a new residence hall and college union with dining and recreation facilities.
In 1950, Pope Pius XII awarded Mother Gerald the Laterin Cross for outstanding service to the Church. She received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1952, and in 1960 Loyola University in Chicago bestowed upon her a second honorary Doctor of Laws degree. She died on November 21, 1961.