29 Apr 1923 – 9 Dec 2019
The time has finally come to do a fuller obituary for her than was possible last December on Instagram. In the interim a good friend acquired a copy of her funeral book for me, and a copy of her official Josephite obituary, because so many locals were unable to attend her Hunters Hill funeral.
The aim is to put them all together into some kind of coherent whole, and to repare for the many times in her life when her presence went unrecorded.
This amazing woman was called into eternity on 9 Dec 2019 after a long life.
Margaret’s initial training was as a nurse. As a young woman in country NSW she decided to become a Catholic at Glenn Innes. This took place in November 1948 at St Patrick’s Glen Innes.
That parish had a convent of Josephite nuns, and one of them in particular, Sr Keiran, introduced Margaret to the life of Mary McKillop, the foundress of the order. Not too long after that the call to follow Jesus as a religious came, and she said Yes, and around 3 years after becoming a Catholic entered the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Her family, especially her father, found this very difficult to comprehend.
In 1955 Margaret made her final vows as a Sister of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart. It is primarily a teaching order, so after her Profession Margaret needed to retrain to become a teacher. She was assigned as a sub primary teacher, and taught Kindergarten and the lower grades of primary school at various locations, including Penrith, Leichhardt, Lakemba, Rockdale, Lavender Bay, Punchbowl, Guildford, Burwood, Camden and Lidcombe.
Margaret had a keen mind and a life-long love of learning. During 1969-1971 she completed a part-time Diploma of Theology, in 1974 attended the Tiertianship at the Aldgate convent near Adelaide in South Australia, and later did the Emmaus programme at the Baulkham Hills retreat centre and the Crossroads Course in 1990.
For some reason, maybe it was her special affinity with people doing it tough, Margaret transitioned from teaching into social work. She studied for a Diploma in Social Welfare at Milperra College of Advanced Education, and then set up the West Care Pastoral Ministry at St Marys (near Penrith). In this ministry she spent 6 busy and fruitful years, until she was sent to Woy Woy.
Her first visit to Woy Woy parish was a brief one in the 1960s as a teacher in the parish primary school. She returned in 1991 for a much longer stint as a parish associate.
She had her fingers in many pies around the place. She was one of the driving forces behind the establishment of Mary Mac's Place, a ministry to the homeless and disadvantaged through meals and support. She founded the local branch of the Josephite Associates, set up to help non-consecrated-religious share in the charism of St Mary McKillop.
Margaret took part in local University of the Third Age (U3A) activities with gusto.
With her cheery demeanour and her ability to connect with anyone, she accomplished an enormous amount of good, be they homeless, addicted, in pain or of significant influence. Frequently she was called upon to be the way forward when dispute resolution had reached an impasse.
In our two local hospitals she was a familiar sight, taking Holy Communion and her special brand of sunshine to the sick.
Photographs do not do her justice, because they cannot show how she seemed to float or half-waltz her way through life, nor the good humour behind her perennial smiles, and the love which lit up her whole face.
She was the last of the Josephite nuns in our parish, moving out of the convent into a villa near the private hospital, enabling the convent to become the parish office until the whole parish site was rebuilt.
However her time at Hunters Hill wasn’t truly retirement, but the beginning of a new ministry, joining in a local parish prayer group.
Margaret was an independent thinker, bringing the clarity of a convert to Catholicism to some matters of faith which ‘cradle Catholics’ found confusing, and she embraced the Renewal after Vatican II with joy.
She had the blessing of being able to celebrate her golden jubilee of profession in 2005 and her diamond jubilee of profession in 2015.
For her own enjoyment and reflection Margaret wrote poetry and loved the literary word. She was close to all her siblings, in-laws and relatives and held a special love for her nieces and nephews. All her life she held true to a deep faith and confidence in her loving God and in His providence.
Her funeral took place at St Joseph’s Chapel at Hunters Hill on 16 Dec 2019, and afterwards her body was laid to rest in Macquarie Park Cemetery.
May God have mercy upon her soul, and richly reward all her service to Him and His people.
We were so blessed to have known her and witnessed her love for God at daily Mass and everywhere else.