Marian Through the Eyes of the Monahans

By J1 Reporter Bridget McGill

There have been many legacies at Marian High School throughout the years. However, the Monahan family legacy may be one of the longest there is. With 22 Marian girls in 50 years, the daughters and granddaughters of Dick and JoAnn Monahan have been attending Marian since 1971. Karen (Monahan) O’Connor graduated Marian in 1975, and started a family tradition that would last half a century. 

JoAnn and the late Dick Monahan have one son, KC, and six daughters: Karen O’Connor (‘75), Kelley Barnard (‘77), Kris Wiest (‘80), Kerrie Monahan (‘83), Kathryn Freed (‘87), and Kim Manning (‘91). In addition to the six Monahan daughters, 16 granddaughters have attended or are currently attending Marian.

All 25 of the Monahan grandchildren together with Grandma JoAnn Monahan at Tom Barnard’s (son of Kelley Barnard) wedding in October 2019.

Kim Manning, Class of 1991, lives in Illinois with her husband and three daughters, which is the only reason all the Monahan granddaughters are not Crusaders. Since almost all of the Monahan girls went to Marian, they share a special bond with each other that will never cease. Over a Zoom interview, the Monahan sisters talked about their experiences at Marian throughout the years.

Shannon Monahan, Class of 2022 and daughter of KC Monahan, is currently the youngest of the Monahans attending Marian. She explains that, “It’s very special how we all share that connection, and there is never a dull moment at family gatherings because we can always find something to talk about, whether it be Marian traditions or just funny stories.” 

Karly Freed, Class of 2022 and daughter of Kathryn Freed, remembers going to volleyball games and Field Day to watch her cousins. She explains that, “Field Day and Grandparent’s Day are a couple of my favorite Marian traditions.”

While discussing their collective experiences, the Monahan sisters agreed that one of the biggest changes was the transition from traditional classes to more college-prep classes. Kelley Barnard, Class of 1977, explains how “Marian has done a better job of adapting and updating their curriculum.” 

Kathryn Freed, Class of 1987, elaborates on this and states, “The most impactful change was when they switched from old-fashioned classes, like sewing and child development, to mostly college-prep and AP classes.” She appreciates that her daughters, Mackenzie, Class of 2017, and Karly, Class of 2022, are being challenged and prepared for their futures while at Marian. 

With the curriculum changing, so do traditions. Some have evolved, while others no longer exist. Karen O’Connor, Class of 1975, described an old tradition called Mini Week, which she described as a “Week where you didn’t have any classes, and you just got to do fun things all week long.” O’Connor specifically remembers taking a cake decorating class during one Mini Week. 

Manning also remembers looking forward to Marian Moms’ Lunch, which used to be spaghetti, breadsticks, and brownies. “Everybody looked forward to it because it was a decent meal and it was really cute,” Manning said. Although the menu may have changed over the years, Marian Moms’ Lunch is still very popular.

Many updates to the buildings and grounds at Marian have occured, most recently with the Performing Arts Center (PAC) in 2013, the Haddix Academic Center and the cafeteria remodel in 2019. Marian alums, including the Monahans, have taken notice and appreciate the efforts to make Marian the best it can be. 

Kathryn Freed notes that “The biggest improvement was when they built the new theater.” Freed took part in plays and musicals while she attended Marian and had to use the stage in the gym, but the athletes took priority in the gym, which made it difficult to put on a production. The PAC was clearly a vast improvement to the fine arts program and has helped take the program to new heights. 

Sending 22 girls to Marian is a big commitment and a sacrifice. “You trace this back to their grandparents… and see the very strong commitment they had to Catholic education, that was then instilled in the Monahan children,” Mrs. Susan Rosenlof explains. She states that, “The cost of Catholic education is tremendous these days, so it takes a big commitment, sacrifice, and love of Catholic education to send everyone to Marian.” 

“The legacy of this family is so incredibly special,” Rosenlof said.

To say the Monahan family has a strong legacy at Marian would be an understatement. While much has changed over 50 years, there has been one constant: Marian has prepared (and is still preparing) two generations of  Monahan girls for their futures, regardless of their career choices. 

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