Benita O'Connor

Honored by:Vince Branigan
Brick location:C:17  map


Born-March 20, 1890, on a farm in Grant Township, Pocahontas County, Iowa. One of 11 children in a pioneer Pocahontas County family, her father was James O'Connor, who was born in Country Leithrum Mohill, Ireland and her mother, Margaret Jane Durigan, of Cummings, Iowa, attended the church visited by the Pope when he visited Iowa. Sister Benita was baptized Emma O'Connor in St Columbkille's church in Varina. Her brothers and sisters included Mary Agnes, Katherin Celia, Clara Alice, Bill, Pat, John and Art. Sister Benita was one of the 4 youngest children who grew up together and hardly knew several of the older children, who homesteaded in Montana. This group included Agnes, Clara, Pat and Bill. Remarking about her 18 years on the farm, Sister Benita stated, "I grew up with a deep sense of appreciation for God's creation, both great and small. I was close to nature. For that I am most grateful."

She entered Dubuque Franciscans July 2, 1908, was received June 3, 1909, professed permanent vows July 20, 1911. During this period, she attended St. Francis High School in Dubuque and later got her bachelor's degree at Loras College and her master's degree cum laude at Notre Dame. She obtained major and minor degrees in English and education. She also attended classes at Catholic University of America. She taught high school at St Marys, Alton, Iowa; 1910-1919 St Johns, Bancroft; 1919-1921 St Marys, Waterloo; 1921-1922 Visitation, Stacyville; 1922-1927 Sacred Heart, Pocahontas; 1927-1929 Sacred Heart, Monticello; 1929-1933 Sacred Heart, Templeton (Principal); 1933-1936 St Marys, Waterloo; 1936-1937 Immaculate Conception, Academy Dubuque (Principal); 1937- 1940 Sacred Heart, Pocahontas; 1940-1942 DeSales, Ossian; 1942-1950 St Johns, Bancroft; 1950-1952 St Josephs, Ashton; 1952-1954 St Josephs, Garnavillo; 1955-1958 Library work, Corpus Christi in Chicago; 1958-1972 Library work at Sacred Heart in Melrose Park, Illinois.

Sister Benita was killed in an auto accident near LaPorte, Indiana, while returning from a Retreat at Notre Dame University April 23, 1972.

Some Sisters recall her dedication for perfect order, cleanliness and precision during her years as a librarian. Visitors to Chicago recall her eagerness to show them the city via public transportation regardless of time or interests. A sparkling Irish wit was ever present in her life. The dedication and wit were always present in her work with Parish Senior Citizens Clubs. In 1969 on her diamond jubilee, Cardinal Cody wrote inviting her to Mass and dinner at Quigly Seminary, adding "l would welcome the opportunity to express to you personally my gratitude and my congratulation on your service to the people of God in Chicago."

Sister Benita is buried in the Nuns Cemetery at Mount Saint Francis, 3390 Windsor Avenue, Dubuque, Iowa 52001-1311. She was one of many teaching nuns from several orders that made a great contribution to the education of children in many Iowa areas.

Submitted by Vince Branigan, Pocahontas, Iowa
Nephew on maternal side