We remember . . . James Francis Mulligan, SSJ

James Francis Mulligan, SSJ, age 97, of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Northwestern Pennsylvania, died on February 26, 2023. She was in the 76th year of her religious life. Sister James Francis was born in Meadville, PA, on April 2, 1925, the daughter of the late James Francis and Luella (Duffy) Mulligan. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph from St. Brigid parish in Meadville on August 31, 1947, and professed her final vows on August 15, 1953. 

Sr. James Francis attended St. Brigid elementary and St. Agatha High School in Meadville. She later graduated from Villa Maria College, Erie, in 1947 with a bachelor’s degree in English and went on to earn a master’s degree from Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI, in 1958. She did additional studies at Catholic University in Washington, DC.

Sister James Francis educated thousands of students in the Catholic tradition throughout the Erie Diocese. She taught at numerous schools in Erie, including St. Peter Cathedral, Holy Rosary, St. Andrew, and Villa Maria Elementary schools;  Villa Maria Academy and Cathedral Prep High schools;  and St. Mark Seminary. In addition, she taught at Villa Maria College and Gannon University. She also taught at St. Leo High School in Ridgway, PA.

“Sister Jim,” as many friends and former students affectionately knew her, began teaching at Cathedral Prep in the 1980s, and she continued teaching there for 32 years. She was a dedicated Prep Rambler fan and attended numerous sporting events to root for “her team.” While at Prep, she could often be seen walking to Gannon University, where she also taught. Being petite, it was a challenging walk during winter, and she had to lean hard into the winds whipping off Lake Erie. She was also known for riding her bicycle around the grounds of the SSJ motherhouse while dressed in her habit.

In 2002, Sister James Francis was inducted into the Cathedral Prep Hall of Fame. In 2006, she received the Erie Deanery’s Teacher Hallmark Award, and in 2007, she was honored for 60  years of service in Catholic Education and was named the Serra Club’s Outstanding Woman Religious. In 2006, she also received a Papal Cross for exemplary work for the Church and the Pope. 

Sister James Francis served the Sisters of St. Joseph of Northwestern Pennsylvania as Assistant Superior and Councilor for Spiritual Life, and as Treasurer. During her retirement, she continued to tutor students and serve in the Diocesan vocation ministry.

In addition to her parents, Sister was preceded in death by her brothers, Bernard, Joseph, and Pfc. James T. Mulligan. Several nieces and nephews and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Northwestern Pennsylvania survive her.

Friends may call at the Sisters of St. Joseph Community Living Center, 5031 West Ridge Road, Erie, on Friday from 2 to 4 p.m., followed by a Christian burial Mass at 4:30 p.m. The Mass will be live-streamed on the Sisters of St. Joseph Facebook page and the SSJ Erie YouTube channel. The interment will be at Calvary Cemetery.


3 Comments on “We remember . . . James Francis Mulligan, SSJ”

  1. A positive force in everyone her students’ lives – an excellent teacher. Even better person.
    I will never forget how students, me included, would part like the Red Sea when she would step out of her classroom and walk down the hallway. R.I.P.
    Prep class of 1993

  2. My thoughts and prayers are with the community in this time of loss.
    With deepest sympathy.

  3. I will never forget this sweet, kind woman. She told my husband once that she always chose a green rather than red pen when grading papers. “Green is the color of hope” she would say. She was a gift to us all from God himself. Rest in eternal peace Sister.

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