Sister Irenaeus had a ‘powerful presence’
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY firstname.lastname@example.org May 24, 2012 7:28PM
Sister Mary Irenaeus Chekouras
Updated: July 3, 2012 9:42AM
Sister Mary Irenaeus Chekouras was remembered Thursday as a “tiny woman who exuded a powerful presence.”
Sister Irenaeus, who was president of St. Xavier University in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood community from 1972 to 1982, died Tuesday at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park. She was 90.
“Her loss is a loss to the community itself,” St. Xavier president Christine Wiseman said.
Sister Irenaeus was the last serving president who also was a Sister of Mercy.
Visitation is from 9 a.m. Friday until the funeral Mass at 11 a.m. in Mercy Hall Chapel, 3701 W. 99th St. in Chicago. Interment is at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside.
Sister Irenaeus served St. Xavier in many capacities, continued to attend events and still was teaching a philosophy course in the Renaissance Academy, a lifelong learning program, Wiseman said.
“She never stopped serving,” Wiseman said. “We are all better for having known her.”
“Everyone loved her,” said Sister Marion Johnson, her closest friend. “She was a great teacher and had a great mind.”
The two sisters shared an apartment for the past 40 years, hosting an annual Christmas party. Guests would bring donations for her favorite charity, the Institute for Women Today, which aided homeless women.
“That was a big part of her life,” Sister Marion said.
Sister Irenaeus also loved the outdoors, loved animals, especially cats, and was a “great cook,” Sister Marion said.
The two traveled a lot, mostly through Europe, but also to Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand. But Sister Irenaeus’ favorite place was the Ring Lake Ranch in Wyoming, a place for renewal and reflection and horseback riding, Sister Marion said.
In April, she celebrated her 90th birthday with 150 family members and friends at St. Xavier.
“She was overjoyed by the affection lavished upon her, and especially appreciated the people who traveled great distances to celebrate with her,” Sister Marion said.
Sister Irenaeus joined the Sisters of Mercy in 1943 and graduated from St. Xavier in 1955. She earned her master’s degree from Catholic University in 1956, and her doctorate in education from the University of Chicago in 1964.
During her tenure as president, Sister Irenaeus oversaw many changes, including the transition from St. Xavier being an all-women’s college to a coeducational institution.
She previously was director of graduate education and taught education for more than 10 years.
For 17 years after her presidency, Sister Irenaeus taught part time.
As president emirita of St. Xavier, Sister Irenaeus served on boards of other institutions, including Loyola University in Chicago, St. Mary’s College in Winona, Minn., and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.
A native of Beloit, Wis., she is survived by a brother, John, and many nieces, nephews, grand- and great-grand-nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Sisters of Mercy, 10024 S. Central Park Ave., Chicago, IL 60655; St. Xavier University, 3700 W. 103rd St., Chicago, IL 60655; or the Institute of Women Today, 7315 S. Yale Ave., Chicago, IL 60621.
Thompson & Kuenster Funeral Home is handling the arrangements. For more information, call (708) 425-0500.