One of Admiral Nimitz’s Daughters Was a Dominican Nun?

More unknown facts for me!

Chester Nimitz wasn’t Catholic, didn’t have any Catholics in the family, wasn’t all that interested in religion, never went to any church unless necessary, and didn’t know whether or not he’d been baptized until he got an uncle who still lived in Texas to look it up. (He was baptized a Lutheran, as it happened.)

Nimitz was good at getting along with just about anybody, though, and apparently had very friendly relations with several Catholic leaders. Apparently he once had Bishop Spellman visit him on Guam (at the time, Spellman was in charge of the military diocese), and asked him to get the Vatican to reassign the then-bishop of Guam, who had fled his flock, come back when the Americans did, and then not done much to rebuild the island or help his flock. Spellman agreed, and there was this interesting episode where Spellman had the Navy guys (with Nimitz’s permission) transmit messages in Vatican code.

(Surely the Swiss Guard Ninja will emerge soon.)

However, during WWII, Mrs. Nimitz sent their daughter Mary to a Dominican convent boarding school, for security reasons and because it was a good school. They kept her with the Dominicans for her secondary schooling as well. During her years with the Dominicans, long after the war was over, she decided that she wanted to become Catholic. No problem for her parents. Then she decided she wanted to be a nun. Not quite so smooth.

However, Nimitz apparently sympathized with his daughter’s desire for a life of service, and there you go.

The Nimitzes apparently got a lot of hatemail and anti-Catholic screeds shoved under their door, all of which they kept away from their daughter. They also had to dodge a lot of nosy paparazzi. But Sister Mary Aquinas was apparently very happy as a Dominican biologist, teacher, and professor. The Nimitzes visited often, and the admiral took a great interest in the grounds and planting trees. His comment to another officer whose daughter was becoming a nun was, “I never feel that I’ve lost a daughter. In fact, I’ve acquired 345.”

Sr. Mary Aquinas died on February 27, 2006, still working at Dominican University of California.

I am going to have to read more about Admiral Nimitz. He seems like a fascinating character.


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9 responses to “One of Admiral Nimitz’s Daughters Was a Dominican Nun?


    where was she buried, and is there a picture of sister aquinas on the internet ?

    may God the Father, Son & Holy Spirit bless the entire Nimitz family, may His Face shine upon them, this day and forevermore!


    Here’s a picture of her, from her university.

    Presumably she’s buried wherever the other Dominican ladies in her area are buried. (Usually in a group plot in a cemetery near some motherhouse, or even on the grounds of one.) Probably you could email the university or the sisters and find out.

    She’s not on “Find a Grave”, though.

    • Ann Warren Smith, PhD

      Sister Aquinas is probably buried at Benecia, the site of the Dominican Mother House,. We were at Stanford University together and later at San Rafael. She was one of a kind……

  3. J. Michael Parker

    I once covered an address Sister Mary Aquinas gave at the National !useum of the Pacific War in the Admiral’s hometown, Fredericksburg, Texas, near San Antonio. She was very interesting and well-informed about the Navy’s Pacific campaigns and was very warmly received.

  4. I was a student at Dominican University. We loved Sr. Aquinas! She was warm, personable and an engaging teacher.

  5. Kyle Pesonen

    I was a student of hers and have to say a better teacher you will never find. She knew the sea and made it exciting. It was an early class but one you would never sleep through. She taught that God and Science had a place together and that Truth was the ultimate goal. She and the inspiration she gave will be missed.

  6. Marsha K. Tejeda

    Sr. Aquinas was one of my professors at Dominican in the early ’70s. A wonderful, knowledgeable, fascinating woman and teacher.

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