Margaret always knew she wanted to be a Sister. After all, by age 10 she had a personal altar in her closet featuring a large poster of the "Agony in the Garden" that she won in an art competition. She entered the novitiate in 1946, but the transition to convent life wasn’t easy at first for the outspoken young woman. Happily, her younger sister Pat entered a few years later, and Margaret says, “She taught me how to laugh.”
In 1949, when Sister first started teaching elementary grades in Marysville, it quickly became apparent that she wasn’t best suited to teach the little ones. She was soon missioned to College of Notre Dame (CND) and charged with starting and chairing an art department! She said, “It was an exciting time; figuring it all out, buying lots of art books." One summer, she took a course in life drawing at UCLA in a huge class where she felt "quite conspicuous" in full habit! Margaret loved those early CND art classes, and many former students still keep in touch. She treasures these enduring connections.
Sr. Margaret's artistic legacy can be seen to this day. At Notre Dame de Namur University, she designed the bell tower on campus and worked closely with the artist who created the stained glass windows in Cunningham Chapel. Her role as the creative arts instructor to the novices and postulants at the Saratoga novitiate influenced them personally and as future teachers. She also touched the lives of students at Emmanuel College in Boston, where she was asked to teach for a year.
After 20 years at CND, she taught art at Notre Dame High School, San Jose, for 12 wonderful years. At the same time, she did art therapy at convalescent homes for the elderly and mentally ill, who had little access to the arts.
In the early 1980s, Sr. Margaret moved across the country to Washington, DC, to work at the Notre Dame Mission Education Center. It was here that she became politicized as she witnessed the involvement of SNDs in Nicaragua in Central American conflicts. Two new passions were ignited: one for justice, the other for communications.
When Margaret returned to California in 1987, she assumed responsibility for the California Province newsletter, and initiated the Sisters' entree to the world of the internet. Some 30 years later, she still works tirelessly to communicate issues of Justice and Peace. On any given day, you might find her teaching a class at NDNU, writing an E-Alert, or calling President Obama about an issue like human trafficking, care of the earth or immigration. Her work has not gone unnoticed; earlier this year, Sr. Margaret received the 2016 Guardian of Justice Award from the Dorothy Stang Center at NDNU.
Though you might not think that Margaret has any spare time, she continues to express herself through art. She has created a series of artworks that combine quotes from the martyred Sr. Dorothy Stang and the Beatitudes. And she still enjoys reading a good mystery.
Sr. Margaret strives to be reflective in the midst of action in these complex times. Sister looks back on her 70 years as a Sister of Notre Dame with gratitude for her “rich and beautiful” life. She deeply values the community of St. Julie with its core conviction about the goodness of God. As one of her favorite hymns says, “Our Good God IS so very good."
Sister Margaret died peacefully on March 29, 2021, at the Mercy Retirement and Care Center in Oakland.