The death of Sister M. Thomas Aquinas, O.P., on August 5, 1947 was a shock from which her community and her friends will not soon recover. Few there were even among her own Sisters who did not feel that she had many years yet to give to the Order and to Catholic Education.
Her community had rejoiced over her election as a Councilor at the Chapter held in early July; now she must return to the Motherhouse from whence she had gone eight years before to serve on the Commission on American Citizenship at the Catholic University. Each year the chairman had requested an extension of time because Sister's sound knowledge, her broad experience, her deep Catholic background were invaluable to the work of the Commission.
That work was to give to the American people a precise knowledge of democracy in the light of Catholic truth and tradition and of the rights and duties of citizens in a representative democracy like that of the United States. This Christian concept of citizenship was to be fostered by compiling a comprehensive series of graded texts for all educational levels.
From September, 1940,until the very day of her fatal illness, August 4, 1947, Sister gave her best to the cause of American citizenship. She did research work, helped to compile textbooks, worked in every and any department that sought her assistance. She had labored almost steadily through the twelve months of the successive years. Always there were duties claiming the attention of the Committee and work was just the natural thing for Sister.
The daughter of John and Sarah Conroy McManus, she was reared in a thoroughly Catholic farm home; she received her early education in a district school, continued it in the New Paltz High School and New Paltz State Normal School and after graduation taught for several years in the public schools of her locality.
In September, 1920, she entered the novitiate at Mount Saint Mary-on-the-Hudson. She who loved every phase of country life - animal and plant life in every form - loved even more God's noblest handwork - His little children. To devote her life to primary education, to education of the children in the grades in general - this was her desire and this was to be her life's work.
Two years in the Casa San Jose, six years in the Demonstration School connected with the Department of Education in the Catholic University at Washington and her return in 1928 to Mt. St. Mary to carry on until September, 1940, her work with the Community teacher training School - this is the story of twenty years. Her Bachelor and Master degrees had been earned during her years in Washington.
As Dean of the Normal Training School at the Mount she exercised a deep influence on the young Sisters whose education she directed and whose ideals of teaching she shaped in the formative years. She knew, too, every boy and girl at the Casa; she knew their fathers and mothers as she had known the children and their parents in the country schools around Milton and in the Demonstration School in Washington.
That these boys and girls, many now in their own homes, in positions of responsibility, have not forgotten this tall, sweet-faced, understanding Sister was proved when they came from far and near to pay their last tribute to her as she lay in the reception room or the chapel at Mt. St. Mary from August 7 to August 9, 1947. Stricken with a cerebral hemorrhage in the chapel of the Dominican House of Studies on the evening of August 4, she died the following day.
A solemn Requiem Mass was offered in the chapel of the Dominican House of Studies on August 7. By train to New York, by funeral car to Newburgh, the body reached the Mount Thursday evening.
Father Cahill, O.P. was the celebrant of the solemn Requiem Mass, which was the fifteenth Mass to be offered in the convent chapel that Saturday, August 9. He was assisted by the Rev. W. G. Moran, O.P., of New Haven as deacon and the Rev. A. M. McLaughlin, O. P., of Washington as sub-deacon. The Sisters choir sang the Mass. Interment was in the lovely community God's Acre she held so dear.
God gave Sister Thomas Aquinas many mental gifts which she with true humility recognized as His gifts. A broad charity, great kindness, a marked generosity of self, an understanding mind and heart characterized her life. She was a leader with the rare quality of finding in each person some one thing at least that person could do well. She inspired confidence in others, whether child or adult. She led souls to God. May He give her Himself and Heaven for all Eternity.