Sister Monica (Donalda) Laughlin, OSB, 92, died October 22, 2014, at St. Scholastica Monastery. She was the daughter of James and Margaret (Dillon) Laughlin born on September 1, 1922, in Iron Mountain, Michigan. Sister Monica was in her sixty-sixth year of Monastic Profession.
Monica‘s musical abilities were significant by the time she attended Iron Mountain High School, where she played piano, clarinet and snare drum in the high school band and orchestra. Her father referred to her as “our one-girl band.” Following her graduation from high school in 1940, she attended The College of St. Scholastica from 1940-1941. From there she transferred to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education in 1944. She then was employed for two years as Director of Music in the public schools of Fowlerville, Michigan.
In 1947, Monica entered the Duluth Benedictine Monastery as a postulant. She professed her triennial vows on July 11, 1948, and her perpetual vows on July 11, 1951. During her time as a postulant, she began teaching in the Music Department of The College of St. Scholastica, and continued to do so for the next sixty years, serving as Music Department Chairman from 1954 – 1975. She also served as Director of Orchestra for Stanbrook Hall High School from 1946 to 1954. During these years of teaching, Sister Monica nourished and inspired music students of all ages. She instilled confidence and developed the unique talents of her students, taking great pride in them and their accomplishments. Sister was Director of St. Scholastica Monastery Schola Cantorum from 1951-1955; 1960-1966; 1994-2006. Her wealth of talent as a musical director, composer, and performer, and her love for Gregorian chant, added extraordinary beauty to the liturgies of the Benedictine Sisters for many years.
Sister Monica was a fine scholar as well as a gifted musician. She earned a Master’s Degree in Music Education from Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester in 1956, and a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree from the University of Southern California in 1967, when she also received the Phi Kappa Phi award for Best Dissertation in Music Education. Other academic honors she received include Mu Phi Epsilon, Honorary Society for Women Musicians; Pi Kappa Lambda, Honorary Society for Music Educators; Phi Beta Kappa. In 1987, Sister received the prestigious Max Lavine Award for Teaching Excellence from The College of St. Scholastica.
Sister Monica played principal clarinet in the University of Michigan Concert Band, 1943-1944; the University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra, 1943-1944; Interlochen, MI summer Symphony Orchestra, 1944; Eastman Concert Band, assistant –principal clarinet, 1954-1956. She played E Flat Clarinet for many years with the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra and was recorder soloist for the Duluth-Superior Chamber Orchestra, on tour 1972. In addition, she performed in The College of St. Scholastica Center for Early Music Orchestra, principal clarinet, and St. Scholastica Historic Wind Ensemble, founder and principal clarinet. Sister was Conductor of the Duluth-Superior Youth Orchestra, 1972-1973, and Director of the Abbey and Mod Minstrels, 1972-1978.
Active in both academic and civic affairs, she served as a member of the Duluth-Superior Symphony Association Board of Trustees, Matinee Musicale, the Cecilian Society and many other local and state music associations. She also served her Benedictine Community as a member of the St. Mary’s Medical Center Board for many years, including Chair, 1991-1992. She was a member of the St. Mary’s/Duluth Clinic Board, 1997-2007.
Sister Monica had a passion for the world of music. Her eloquent voice, her compositions, her teaching career and many performances with the clarinet and recorder impacted and graced those at St. Scholastica Monastery, The College of St. Scholastica and the Duluth-Superior communities. In recent years, Sister Monica observed: “Benedictine life, full of joy and warmth, continues to be relevant to our times, providing models of peace, generosity, and hospitality.” She joyfully celebrated her Silver Jubilee on August 15, 1973, her Golden Jubilee on July 11, 1998, and her Diamond Jubilee on August 3, 2008.
Sister Monica was preceded in death by her parents, James and Margaret, and her brothers William and Thomas. She is survived by her sister, Sister Margaret James Laughlin, the other Sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery and by beloved nieces, nephews, and many dear colleagues, relatives, and friends.
Her Wake Service/Evening Prayer was held on Friday, October 31, 2014, at Our Lady Queen of Peace Chapel at 7:00 p.m. Visitation was from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. and after the Wake Service until 9:00 p.m. The Mass of Christian Burial was held on Saturday, November 1, 2014, at Our Lady Queen of Peace Chapel at 10:30 a.m. with Father Thomas Foster presiding. Visitation was from 9:30-10:15 a.m. The Rite of Committal to the Earth was at Gethsemane Cemetery.