Margaret O’Gara: 1947–2012

 — Aug. 22, 201222 aoüt 2012

One of Canada’s most eminent theologians and one of the greatest Catholic experts in ecumenism has died.

Margaret O’Gara, Professor of Theology at the University of St. Michael’s College, entered the realm of eternal life on Thursday, August 16, at age 65. She had suffered from cancer for two years.

In 37 years of work as a theologian O’Gara was able to foster dialogue among Christians for the sake of overcoming divisions between the churches. Besides her teaching, research, writing, and extensive public lecturing, she was a member of official ecumenical dialogues in Canada, the United States, and at the international level. She served terms as president of both the North American Academy of Ecumenists and the Catholic Theological Society of America.

O’Gara’s effectiveness came from a combination of her scholarly rigor, exceptional ability to listen sympathetically, uncommon energy, and contagious delight at the growth of mutual understanding and friendship. The same traits marked her strong personal relationships with her students and colleagues, the members of her extended family, and her many longstanding friends. The fundamental driving force of her life was her deep and abiding Christian faith.

A champion of ecumenism, O’Gara served from 1976 to 1993 on Canada’s Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue, and during that time worked closely with Canon Dr. Alyson Barnett-Cowan, former director of faith, worship and ministry for the Anglican Church of Canada.

O’Gara was “one of the most gracious people I have ever known,” says Barnett-Cowan. “Her commitment to ecumenism remained constant even through times when others became discouraged. Her commitment to her own church was absolute, yet she always listened deeply to the commitments and values of others.”

Barnett-Cowan recalls a sermon that O’Gara gave at the Holy Cross Orthodox Seminary in Boston. “She spoke about the tombs of the Tudor queens Mary and Elizabeth lying side by side in Westminster Abbey–close in death as they were not in life, each of them icons of two churches battling for supremacy during the Reformation, each of them deeply committed women of faith, now at rest and reconciled.”

The inscription on the tombs reads: “Partners in throne and grave, here we sleep, Elizabeth and Mary, sisters, in hope of the Resurrection.” O’Gara then went on to speak about what it might mean to be sister churches.

In a 2011 address celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue, O’Gara acknowledged that the two denominations were still divided on many issues in their struggle toward unity, but noted that their discussions had sown promising seeds that would one day be harvested.

“She cared for and loved her students, her colleagues and her teaching at the Faculty of Theology very dearly,” said Fr. Mario D’Sousa, dean of theology at St. Michael’s and one of O’Gara’s former students, in a statement. “And while we mourn her passing, we know that we have a powerful and committed intercessor for our work and continued mission…”

O’Gara is survived by her husband, Prof. Michael Vertin, a University of Toronto emeritus professor of philosophy. In her honour, St. Michael’s has established the Margaret O’Gara Scholarship to support an advanced-degree student specializing in the area of ecumenical theology.

[This post includes material from the obituary and a news story in the Anglican Journal. Photo: The Catholic Register]

Posted: Aug. 22, 2012 • Permanent link:
Categories: Anglican Journal, MemorialsIn this article: Catholic, ecumenism
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Catégorie : Anglican Journal, MemorialsDans cet article : Catholic, ecumenism

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