Reader's Retrospective: Margaret Gonda Matesich

This story appears in the Reader's Retrospective feature series. View the full series.

by Julie Gunter

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Editor's note: Introducing NCRonline's blog series "Reader's Retrospective": A special project that commemorates NCR's 50th anniversary by telling the stories of readers who have been faithfully subscribing to the National Catholic Reporter since its beginning. ​Read about the project's origins here.​

In 1964, Margaret Gonda Matesich was, at long last, a college student. Decades after declining a full scholarship due to financial pressures at home, 54-year-old Matesich enrolled in an extension program affiliated with Ohio State University the same year she began subscribing to the fledgling National Catholic Reporter. From a stool by the kitchen stove, she read materials for class, materials related to her many civic involvements, and articles in NCR.

With her husband, Matthew Matesich, she also set an example for four daughters raised in the small-town community of Newark, Ohio. By 1964, they were a tight-knit, yet far-flung, bunch: Dominican Sr. Mary Andrew, the oldest, at University of California, Berkeley, pursuing a doctorate in organic chemistry; Gigi in Peru serving as a lay missioner; Martha at St. Xavier College in Chicago; and Mickey (Mildred), the youngest, still in high school.

Margaret was fond of saying that her father (raised in an orphanage run by a religious order) was her first religion teacher, with classes occurring during walks to church. Her daughters, too, grew up listening to their parents discuss the homily after Sunday morning Mass.

According to Gigi, "Mom was drawn to NCR from its beginning." Through NCR, she was introduced to figures such as economic justice expert Immaculate Heart of Mary Sr. Amata Miller, and theologians Fr. Charles Curran and Fr. Hans Küng. NCR's coverage of civil rights and other social justice issues were also shaping influences.

Some news brought disappointment, especially Pope Paul VI's issuance of Humanae Vitae, which reinforced the church's teaching against birth control. That teaching had led to her fear, when she received a cancer diagnosis at 40 years old, "of having a malformed child due to radiation she'd received," according to Gigi.

Eventually succumbing to a second cancer in 1982, her daughters remain aware of the ways that their "faith-inspired lives, as well as [their] professional interface with the world" have been inspired by their mother's connection to NCR and her "excitement with her Catholic faith, learning in general, and her engagement in life."

Her daughters are longtime NCR subscribers as well. Mickey now works in adult faith formation after a long career as a civil rights lawyer and judge; Martha serves as a theological translator in Germany; and Gigi, following seven years as a Maryknoll lay missioner, works as a clinical social worker in Washington, D.C. Mary Andrew, who served more than 20 years as president of Ohio Dominican University, died in 2005.

A version of this story appeared in the Dec 5-18, 2014 print issue under the headline: NCR a reader's retrospective: Margaret Gonda Matesich.

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