Saturday, January 24, 2015

R.I.P. Sr. Marie Margaret

Sr. Marie Margaret, SSM
at General Convention

It is with deep sorrow that we deliver the sad news that Sister Marie Margaret has died. After suffering a massive stroke in Haiti, she was brought by air ambulance first to the Dominican Republic, then finally to the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Valiant efforts were made by the medical team but the damage was too severe. This is a time of sadness both for the Sisters and for her family, whom we ask that you keep in your thoughts and prayers. We will share more information as it becomes available.

At this time we are also giving thanks for Sister Marie Margaret's many years in community.  As a young Sister of the Society of St. Margaret, Sr. Marie Margaret served at St. Monica's Nursing Home in Roxbury; St. Margaret's House, New Hartford, NY; St. Margaret's House, Oliver Street, NYC; as well as at the Boston Convent. In 1971 she took up work at St. Margaret's House in Philadelphia, and served as Parish Sister at St. Luke's Church, Germantown, Philadelphia until 1979. During the summers of 1972-1978 she was responsible for the younger children at St. Margaret's Camp, Duxbury, MA.  She received her R.N. in 1983. In 1985 she returned to Haiti and in 1994 became Sister-in-Charge of St. Margaret's Convent, Haiti.

Sr. Marie Margaret, SSM

Sr. Marie Margaret was the first of our Sisters to join us from Haiti.  Sr. Marjorie Raphael remembers meeting her in 1951, when Sr. Marie - still Yvette Fenelon at the time - was a young adult leader of the Cathédrale Sainte Trinité youth group and working in the clinic at the cathedral school. She remarked on Sr. Marie Margaret's great courage in pursuing her vocation, travelling to Boston far from everyone and everything she knew, and also on her great love of being a Sister of St. Margaret.

Sr. Adele Marie recalls, "Sr. Marie Margaret and I shared some years together in the novitiate. I remember the cold, frosty day on which she arrived in Boston from the warmth of Haiti. I was sent to Logan to meet her plane and bring her to the Convent. The days and months after her arrival were filled with challenges and adjustments. She coped beautifully, putting up with frigid temperatures, English immersion, and strange food.

During our novitiate we discovered quite by chance that she had great talents as a mimic. Most Sundays the novices were expected to attend the 11 am Mass at St. John's Church, Bowdoin Street, which at that time was under the direction of the Cowley Fathers. The priest in charge during these years was Father Banner, SSJE. We quickly noticed his distinctive mannerisms when he gave the announcements mid-way through the Eucharist. One Sunday afternoon about five of us were in the novitiate common room commenting on what we perceived as his 'oddities' when suddenly Marie Margaret was on her feet doing an absolutely screamingly funny take-off on Fr. Banner delivering the announcements. Suddenly the door opened and Sr. Eleanora's nearly six-foot frame entered the room glowering at our antics and hilarity. We were all dressed down properly with a lecture on 'respect for the clergy.'"

Sr. Sarah recalls with fondness her sartorial training upon arrival in Haiti. Never again will she be able to look at a scuffed shoe or wrinkled habit without thinking of Sr. Marie Margaret and running for the shoe polish or iron. It was also Sr. Marie Margaret who taught her the proper way to transform huge bolts of linen into beautiful purificators and altar cloths.  She will always be profoundly grateful for Sr. Marie Margaret's care and generosity during a family health emergency; as we have just learned again, handling such things internationally is very difficult.

Sr. Marie Margaret was a very encouraging person, always helping others to keep going. Sr. Claire Marie tells about making a trip to a rural mountain mission near Léogane. She and Sr. Marie Margaret started their trip by jeep but needed to switch to horses partway there. Sr. Claire Marie was afraid to get up on the horse, but Sr. Marie Margaret encouraged her to get up there, backpack and all. When the hill got steep and Sr. Claire Marie declared she was going back down, Sr. Marie Margaret called back, "You can't! It's too steep!" After a time, Sr. Claire Marie had to get off the horse and had trouble with her backpack. Sr. Marie Margaret carried both of theirs while one of the men accompanying them helped Sr. Claire Marie up the hill. Coming down was a piece of cake after that.

Sr. Promise sent the following recollection from Haiti, where she has gone to help out for a short while:

"Sr. Marie Margaret was the first sister I met the first day I was on my way to the convent. One afternoon before I went to school I decided to go and meet the sisters for the first time after two of the seminarians told me about sisters in the Episcopal Church. On my way there I met one of the seminarians. While talking with him, Sr. Marie was on her way to deliver something to Holy Trinity School. The seminarian present me to her and on her way back, she took me to the convent. Upon that encounter, we stay in touch. She was my novice Mistress, she sewed my novice habit and she put a handkerchief in my pocket. She received me as a novice, she receive my temporary and my life vows. And she always make sure that I have a new handkerchief in the pocket of my habit for each of those occasion. As you know I love to ask question and she is never tired of answering me and never think that I am challenging her instead she was very open and welcoming to my questions. She taught me so much about putting other first and it is not about me. I am very grateful for all she taught me especially on how to find God in everything."

Sr. Marie Margaret

On a beautiful autumn day last September during the Gathering, Sr. Kristina Frances went to Plimoth Planation with Sr. Marie Margaret, Sr. Marie Thérèse, Sr. Promise and Sr. Kéthia. Sr. Promise and Sr. Kristina Frances took a ton of pictures and some are attached below. In one of the gardens at the Plantation, Sr. Marie Margaret found a carved, wooden chair that she thought made her look taller and wondered how she might get it back to Haiti. We share these pictures with you as a reminder of a time of laughter, of community and the joy of being together on a lovely day.

selfie at Plimonth Plantation 2014
Sr. Kethia, Sr. Marie Margaret, Sr. Kristina Frances

There will be many more stories to tell in the days to come as we remember our sister, her laughter, her smile, and her care for those around her. Perhaps the most important thing we all remember about her is that Sr. Marie Margaret knew, above all, how to love.

The mission and ministry in Haiti Sr. Marie Margaret loved and supported so faithfully continues under the care of Sr. Marie Thérèse and Sr. Kéthia. Please continue to keep them in your prayers as they continue this vital work. To ease some of their burden we ask that you direct any questions or communications regarding Sr. Marie Margaret or Haiti to the Sisters in Duxbury via email at We thank you for your continued support.

In closing, we would like to share from you a note from Sr. Marjorie Raphael which best seems to sum up that which undergirded Sr. Marie Margaret's life:

     You asked yesterday what comes into my mind in thinking about Sr. Marie Margaret. Now that the reality of her death has sunk in, I can think about this. After each paragraph of her life, youth, middle years, and maturer years, one would want to say

"She gave her life to God,
 Not just a part of it,
 But all of it."

      And ending with the consistency of her gift of self, through others, to God. I think of her as single-minded, no rewards of career or achievement, but total gift. In that she is an image of the religious life, a "humble," "little," "Sister."
   And that in no way diminishes what we may see as her "achievements." The one that stands out in my mind is her share in the establishment of the Religious Life within the Episcopal Church in Haiti. But she would do that wherever she was sent.

 She always wanted to identify herself as "A Sister of St. Margaret." Yes, proud to be a Haitian, but uncomfortable with the phrase "Haitian Sister," preferring the all-inclusive "Sister of St. Margaret."  

1 comment: