Sister Mary Julie Maggioni, professor


Sister Mary Julie Maggioni, RSM, who grew up speaking Italian and English in the American South and became a French professor, died Thursday at The Villa convent in Towson. She was 83 and had been in failing health for several years.

Sister Julie taught from 1950 to 1962 at Mount St. Agnes College in Mount Washington, which closed in 1968. She returned to her native Savannah, Ga., where she taught French from 1968 to 1978 at St. Vincent's Academy and Savannah State College.

She also taught at St. Xavier College in Chicago and Mercy House of Studies in France.

She had retired in Savannah, but in 1991, her failing health prompted her to return to Baltimore for the care she needed at The Villa, said Sister Margaret Beatty, one of Sister Julie's students when she was an undergraduate at Mount St. Agnes in the late 1950s.

Sister Julie always pronounced her name the French way -- with a soft J and an accent on the "ie" -- and so did anyone who knew her.

"In French, she was such a perfectionist. I was so scared I hated to go to that class," said Sister Margaret.

But when Sister Margaret entered the Religious Sisters of Mercy novitiate a few years later, she returned to take the course Sister Julie taught on Dante's "Divine Comedy." "It was absolutely wonderful -- one of the best courses I've ever had in my life," Sister Margaret said. "She read aloud in the original Italian that Dante wrote. Her love of the language and her love of the work was so profound, the rendition so melodious."

Sister Julie was the firstborn of an Italian-immigrant fishmonger and his wife in Savannah. They named her Natalie. Sister Julie had five brothers and sisters. One followed her into the order.

Sister Julie attended Catholic schools in Savannah and Macon, Ga. Although she grew up speaking both English and Italian, she pursued French at Trinity College in Washington and spent her junior year at the Sorbonne in Paris.

In 1934, she entered the Sisters of Mercy Catholic order in Baltimore. She then completed work on a doctorate in languages from the Catholic University in Washington.

While at Mount St. Agnes, she made several trips to France with students and established the Mercy House of Studies there, to aid foreign students, said Sister Angeline McGrath, who entered the order the same year Sister Julie did and was at her side when she died.

A memorial service was held at The Villa Saturday. A Mass of Christian burial is to be celebrated today in Savannah.

She is survived by a sister, Frances Ahern; and a brother, Gilbert Maggioni, both of Savannah.

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