The résumé of Mary Milligan, R.S.H.M., was long; her impact is equally long-lasting. Though she stopped teaching — French, theology, Hebrew scripture and New Testament — in 2007 and passed away April 2, 2011, there are new classes of LMU students who are inspired by her reflections on faith and action.
In fall 2010, students in visiting professor Elizabeth Carr’s course “Narratives of Christian Faith” read Milligan’s autobiographical writings, a slim volume printed by her religious congregation. In a reflection on the reading, one student wrote: “Through reading Mary Milligan’s autobiography, I have discovered the true purpose of the trials that I have faced in life …” Another wrote: “I think I was finally able to figure out what she meant [by her tapestry analogy]. She was able to realize that her hands, human hands, were able to do God’s work, and to participate in the creative process. … That really spoke to me.”
Those students were writing four years after Milligan had retired, 19 years after she was dean of Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, 25 years after she was provost of LMU, 30 years after she served in Rome as general superior of her congregation and 56 years after she entered religious life. It is a legacy to make any teacher envious.
Milligan’s legacy extends further through her work on women in the church. She was selected by the Vatican as one of three U.S. experts to the 1987 International Synod of Bishops on the Laity, where she lobbied for a stronger role for women. Milligan also was a co-author of “Women and Jurisdiction,” a study of the changing role of women in the church.
A native Californian, Milligan earned her B.A. in French at Marymount College in Tarrytown, N.Y.; her M.A. in sacred scripture at St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind.; her Ph.D. in English at the L’Université de Paris; and a doctorate in sacred theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.