In Memory of Nina
Nina Polcyn Moore
1914 - 2007
Nina's life was dedicated to justice and peace.
Nina Polcyn Moore, who turned a religious bookstore in downtown Chicago into a center of progressive Catholic intellectual and cultural life in the 1950s and '60s, died in Evanston, Ill., Feb. 10. She was 92. Throughout her life, she was involved in social movements promoting interracial justice, equal rights for women and the role of the laity in the Catholic church. Most recently, she had been an advocate and support for victims of abuse by priests. She was a close friend of Dorothy Day, cofounder of the Catholic Worker Movement.
As owner of the St. Benet's Book Shop, Polcyn sensed Catholics' need for stimulating reading and art. She traveled annually to Europe, searching ateliers and abbeys for designs for the store. She invited theologians and other scholars to the shop to discuss new developments in the church and attracted activist customers.
Chicago Auxiliary Bishop John Gorman spoke of her "welcoming presence at the store" and her theological astuteness. "St. Benet's was the only place we could go for good religious books and art," he said. "Nina was herself a gift to all of us."
Roy Larson, former religion editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, called her "a life-loving Christian, the embodiment of progressive, Vatican II Catholicism, and the operator of my favorite oasis in the loop."
Longtime friend Margery Frisbie said she was "one of the most entertaining persons I ever met," and commented on her knack for hiring young women at the store, who then went on to careers of service. "Nina was just a tremendously generous person," she said.
As a 19-year-old student at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Nina Polcyn met Day and Catholic Worker cofounder Peter Maurin in New York and joined them in picketing the German consulate to protest the policies of Adolf Hitler. With a group of friends, she then founded a Catholic Worker House in Milwaukee. For the next 40 years she collaborated with Day, who called Nina Polcyn her "oldest and dearest friend." The two often traveled together, going on a peace mission in 1971 to Russia, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania. After Day's death, Polcyn urged the church to declare Day a saint and was encouraged by Cardinal John O'Connor of New York to participate in the canonization process.
In 1973 she married Thomas Eugene Moore, a widower who shared her love for the church, good conversation, good reading and travel. They enjoyed 22 years of marriage until his death in 1995.
Nina Polcyn Moore is survived by five stepchildren and by a sister.
A memorial service was held Feb. 24 in Evanston.