Saturday, September 7, 2019

Remembering Barbara Morgan

A most beloved mentor and spiritual mother to my husband and myself, Barbara Morgan, a professor we had the privilege of working with and for, while we were at Franciscan University of Steubenville, has recently passed away. Those of you who knew and loved her, I hope can smile, laugh, and cry with me as I remember her beautiful, holy soul. I was blessed to know her for a short time, but she remained forever in my heart and mind, leading me on to holiness.

When my husband and I visited Franciscan University with the hope of transferring there together, him into a master’s degree, me possibly finishing my undergrad music degree but most importantly, finally attending my “dream” school I had been praying about since I was 16, we were met with many discouraging obstacles.

The first counselor we met with told me to stay where I was, that the university was not a good fit for me and that I should finish the music degree I started at Samford. I was crushed and in tears. My husband and I were engaged at the time and certain we were supposed to be there together.  2 things happened following. The director of music ministry there met us on campus and told me her story of how she got there, (a former music major) how it was the best decision she could have made and why (the music ministry experience there is like no other). This was encouraging.

Then, we met Barbara Morgan. We would have said at the time, by chance, but of course when God is involved nothing is by chance, and our paths were meant to cross with hers. She met my husband first (who learned of her through another professor and then hunted her down). He was a fresh convert in the church, eager to grow and serve in ministry. He told her everything- how he had felt called to ministry somehow, how I had always wanted to go to Franciscan University but due to family objections was unable to, and how we were engaged and had a dream of serving in the church together. She almost immediately took us in spiritually as her own children, told us it would absolutely work for us to come there, that *she* wanted us there, and convinced us both almost immediately to enter into the Catechetics program of which she was head.

Thus we entered the “school” of Barbara Morgan. My husband began his master’s degree in Theology and Catechetics, I began the undergrad bachelor’s degree in the same. But to be a student of Barbara’s was so much more than attending her classes. She took you under her wing. She saw your formation as a huge part of her life. Barbara was not only a professor at the university but also responsible for the R.C.I.A. (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) process there, and for consulting many diocese/parishes around the country in the R.C.I.A. process. My husband and I were soon asked to be on her R.C.I.A. team at the university and then involved in some of her consulting trips out of town. She was passionate about 1 thing, bringing souls to the church. She took it very seriously and if you were under her formation, you felt the gravity of it.

Barbara would say things, that would stick in your mind and your heart, forever. Sometimes you wouldn’t get it right away. But eventually the Holy Spirit would use it again and again, to remind you of its meaning. Like when several of us, young college students, were with her on a trip, she started talking about the vocation of marriage. She told us that a mother was more of a place, than a person. And that you and your spouse’s main goal should be to “beat each other to the cross”. By this she meant, be the first to apologize, the first to humble yourself, to repent. The motherhood quote I didn’t understand until I became a mother. It first came to me when I had littles climbing all over me. “A mother is a place”. Then when they got older and came to me as a comfort, a refuge from worries, stress, and hurt “a mother is a place”.

And there were many other things she said...

Like when telling us how to teach people the faith, how to minister to them, she would say “Don’t be scandalized by sin!” and “You can’t be holier than the church!”. She used the teachings and philosophy of St. Don Bosco and he became one of our patrons. “Get them to love you and they’ll follow you anywhere” was a favorite Bosco quote often repeated.

Some of my husband and my favorite memories were of her catechetical teaching times. She felt very strongly about certain errors made in teaching and would emphasize for instance, that the Holy Spirit was a PERSON, “not a bird!” She would say we as Catholics should know the Bible and be able to quote it easily. Fellow students on her R.C.I.A. Team used to laugh about how she would call us out during a session with people in the catechumenate and say “_____(insert team member’s name) find me that scripture about praise in the psalms!”  Not really, but she would expect us to find scriptures on any topic on the fly. She was serious about our knowledge of scripture as catechetical students and future teachers in the faith.

She would teach on sin and say “where’s God when I’m sinning? (And hold her hand up to her face and say) he’s right here.” She would say that God may be on plan A or plan B or C for us, but that we can’t “mess up” his plan. She was known for singing this old familiar praise song  from the verse Lamentations 3:22-23. a lot. She quoted her mother, a Baptist convert to the catholic faith, and say “my mother used to say to me, Barbara Ann, weep and mourn, for the body of Christ is broken!” She would share how one of her kids when caught doing something would say “I don’t know! it just happened to me mom!” and then she would say “sin doesn’t just happen to us, we choose it.” She urged us on the path to holiness with every action and word.

We were only with her for a brief time. But her influence on our life individually, as a couple, and as parents will never leave us. We are still quoting her to each other, reminding each other of all she taught us. She is still with us in our thoughts and in our hearts saying “you are called to be a saint! You were made for heaven!”

Barbara Morgan, pray for us, and may your holy soul rest in happiness and peace.


  1. I was on her RCIA Team from fall of 96 to spring of 98. Your beautiful remembrance of Barbara brought back great memories. Her wisdom of a mother being a place reminds me of Holy Mother Church.

    1. Yes! She used to also say in reference to the church being universal "Here's comes everybody!" I LOVED that and it has come to mind often. ;)

  2. She and Gary graciously invited me to live with them as I was coming into the Church in Spring ‘98. Loved her (and Gary). Truly special.