Sister M. Marguerite Stanka, O.P.
Sister Marguerite Stanka, 100 years old and a Dominican Sister of San Rafael for 75 years, died peacefully at Our Lady of Lourdes Convent in San Rafael on August 25, 2018.
Margaret Stanka was born in Michigan, the youngest of four daughters. She was just four years old when her father died, and the family relocated to the west coast. She attended grammar school in Alameda and graduated from Holy Names High School in Oakland.
She was always an avid reader and knew from a young age that she wished to be a librarian.
At the University of California, Berkeley, Margaret designed an interdisciplinary humanities major, with strong emphases in history, French, and English literature, preparing to enter the graduate School of Librarianship. She received her undergraduate degree with honors in 1940, and was elected to both Phi Beta Kappa and the French honor society, Pi Delta Phi. She earned her certification in librarianship a year later.
Margaret met several Dominicans while in college and felt drawn to religious life. She chose to enter the congregation of the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael in 1941, attracted to a life of prayer, study, community and service. After Sister Marguerite completed the novitiate in 1943, she began her ministry, a commitment of 52 years to the library at Dominican College, as Chief Librarian for 40 years, and then Acquisitions Librarian for Collection Development until she retired.
During her tenure, Sister Marguerite oversaw the development of the library, which was first located in the motherhouse, then on the second floor of Guzman Hall. The requirements for the library grew as the liberal arts college expanded and the campus served as the Pacific Coast branch of the Catholic University of America each summer with graduate courses for sisters and priests pursuing Master's degrees. It was clear that a separate building was needed.
Sister Marguerite worked closely with the architectural firm to plan the design of Archbishop Alemany Library, which opened in 1963 and anticipated growth of the student body as well as developments in library technology. In 1983, she turned her attention to ensuring the quality of the library collection. She retired in 1995 with the the title of Emerita, an honor given to faculty members who served the College with exceptional loyalty and devotion. The following year the library plaza was dedicated to Sister Marguerite.
She greatly enjoyed travel; grants allowed her to visit college and university libraries on the east coast, Oxford University, and the Library of Congress. A true Anglophile, Sister Marguerite made more than one trip to Great Britain. In the late 1980s, another grant allowed her, with two other sisters and two colleagues, to the trail of William the Conqueror.
To the end of her life, Sister Marguerite loved good company, good conversations, and good books. She celebrated her hundredth birthday in April and gathered with friends last month to celebrate her 75th jubilee as a Dominican sister. On the occasion of her 60th jubilee, she wrote: "My years as a Dominican have been extraordinarily gifted in two ways: all of them have been spent in the sylvan environment of the Dominican Convent and College campus, full of the evidence of God's creative hand in nature; and more than fifty of them in finding God in the life of the mind. Again, our Dominican brother, Thomas [Aquinas], assures us that study, if rightly directed to God, may be a form of prayer."
Sister Marguerite was preceded in death by her parents, and by her older sisters, Pauline, Florence and Martha. She is survived by many friends, former students and colleagues, and by her Dominican Sisters.
The funeral Mass will take place on Friday, August 31 at 10:00 a.m. in the Gathering Space at Dominican Sisters Center, 1520 Grand Avenue in San Rafael. Sister Marguerite will be buried in St. Dominic Cemetery in Benicia on Tuesday, September 4 at 10:00 a.m.
Memorial gifts in honor of Sister Marguerite may be made to the Retirement Fund, Dominican Sisters of San Rafael, Development Office, 1520 Grand Avenue, San Rafael CA 94901.