Virginia McMonagle, RSCJ

Birth: August 9, 1921
Profession: Feb. 9, 1949
Death: March 31, 2013

Religious of the Sacred Heart Virginia McMonagle died Easter Sunday, March 31, after a brief illness. Known for her strong leadership and will-do attitude, Sister McMonagle helped to build two schools of the Sacred Heart. She also spent many years following her heart in a hands-on ministry to the poor in Haiti. Her life will be celebrated in a Mass of Christian Burial on Saturday, April 27 at 1:30 p.m. at Oakwood Retirement Center, 140 Valparaiso Avenue, Atherton, CA 94027. There will be another Mass in memory of Sister McMonagle at the University of San Diego Founders Chapel on May 1 at 12:15 p.m.

Virginia Rose McMonagle was born August 9, 1921 to George A. and Rose Virginia Tierney McMonagle in Roslyn, Washington. She was the oldest of three children – a sister, Marguerite H. McMonagle, who joined her as a vowed religious, and a brother, George A. McMonagle, SJ, who became a Jesuit brother – both of whom predeceased her. She is survived by a cousin, Merrilyn Tucker and scores of Religious of the Sacred Heart. She will be remembered with fond affection by former students and colleagues, devoted friends and the staff at Oakwood.

Virginia’s temperament was apparent at an early age, when as a six or seven-year-old, she left the Catholic Church when she discovered that her Presbyterian playmate had a Christmas party at her church and the Catholic parish did not. She went to see the minister, requested to join his church, and he, wisely, said he would think about it. Later it became clear that he had called Mrs. McMonagle, and the two of them had agreed that Virginia would be a Presbyterian until after the Christmas party.

The family moved to the Seattle area in time for Virginia to attend Forest Ridge Academy of the Sacred Heart, where she first met the Society of the Sacred Heart. After graduating, Virginia went to San Francisco College for Women (later Lone Mountain College), also operated by the Society. It was here that she felt the call to religious life, and entered the Society of the Sacred Heart at Kenwood, Albany, NY, on August 24, 1940. She pronounced her first vows on May 1, 1943 and returned to Forest Ridge, where she would stay until 1957. She taught, served as assistant principal and was charged with the boarding school. She made her final profession as a Religious of the Sacred Heart in Rome in 1949.

In 1957, Sister McMonagle was assigned as mistress general (head of school) for a brand new foundation, the Academy of the Sacred Heart in El Cajon, California. The school was so new that classes began in empty classrooms. Students were expected to bring their own camp stools.

In 1963, she returned to Forest Ridge as principal and engineered the school’s move from its location in Seattle to the high hills of Bellevue, overlooking Lake Washington. In typical fashion, Sister McMonagle raised money for 129 acres of land and the buildings in various and creative ways. She also served her community there as superior, 1965-69.  

Sister McMonagle’s fundraising success at Forest Ridge prompted a new career, and in 1972 she became director of development at the University of San Diego. Over the years her titled evolved, but her responsibilities were similar. She remained in this service, serving on several advisory boards and constituent groups, for thirty years, living in an apartment among the students.

The next stage of Sister McMonagle’s ministry began with a phone call inviting her to serve as missionary to Haiti. She was assigned to an orphanage in Port-au-Prince, and declared herself “totally hooked” from the day she arrived. It was arranged that she spend six months of the year at USD and six months in Haiti. This continued for many years.

In 2003, Sister McMonagle joined the retirement community of the Religious of the Sacred Heart in Atherton, CA, while continuing to raise funds for her beloved Haiti mission.

Sister McMonagle earned both her Bachelor of Arts and her Master’s Degree in English from Lone Mountain College.

Read her obituary in the U-T San Diego.


Submitted by Patty Ragen Gal... on

Virginia was such a wonderful, giving woman, a true inspiration. I worked with her in the San Diego Alumnae for several years. She will be missed by many.