November 19, 1959 – February 24, 2018
Mary Ellen Konieczny, 58, of South Bend, Indiana and Chicago, passed into eternal life, surrounded by family and friends, on Saturday Feb 24th after a sudden relapse of cancer.
She was born to John and Florence Konieczny on November 19, 1959 in Buffalo, New York. The oldest of three children, she is survived by her mother, brothers Paul and Mark, and nieces Caroline, Jane and Ayrana.
There was nothing more important in the world to Mary Ellen than her family.
She will be deeply missed by her loving husband, Chris Chwedyk, and two beloved sons, John and Peter. Her boys remember their mother as enormously caring, and that she would move heaven and earth for them, even through the toughest times.
Mary Ellen studied at the Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart, a girls’ high school run by the sisters of St. Francis, and she was honored to give the school’s 2013 commencement address.
She loved finding connections others didn’t see, and building bridges others didn’t think possible. As an undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame, she studied Earth Science and Philosophy, connecting the material world with the metaphysical one. Working in the Archdiocese of Chicago, she forged relationships across diverse communities to collaborate together in new ways.
She received a M.Div. from Weston Jesuit School of Theology and her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Chicago. At the University of Notre Dame, she was an Associate Professor of Sociology, a Faculty Fellow of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society, and the Henkels Family Collegiate Chair. Colleagues remember her for her tenacity and intelligence, her love of teaching and passionate work with students, and her willingness to go to the heart of the matter.
Her remarkable book The Spirit’s Tether: Family, Work, and Religion among American Catholics explored how religion and family life shape Catholic Americans’ moral and political polarization. Her second book project, Service before Self, is an organizational culture case study of the U.S. Air Force Academy, exploring polarization and pluralism in US religion more broadly. In recent years, she had expanded her work internationally, beginning a major project in East Africa on “Our Lady of Kibeho,” studying Marian apparitions and the Rwandan genocide to gain insight into religion’s role in conflict.
A person of great faith, she had a life-long passion for understanding the dynamism, complexities, and nuances of the Catholic Church. Her colleagues would say she could lift people across religious, political and intellectual divides like no other. She built bridges bravely, resolutely, contagiously, generously, and with grace.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame on Thursday March 1, 2018, at 9:30am with Rev. John Jenkins, CSC, officiating. Burial will follow at Cedar Grove Cemetery, on campus. Friends may call on Wednesday at the Church of Our Lady of Loretto, 100 Lourdes Hall – Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, IN from 4-8pm with a remembrance at 6.30pm.
Memorial donations, in lieu of flowers, may be made in the Professor’s memory to: Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart, Buffalo NY, 3860 Main St., Buffalo, NY 14226.