Sr Margaret’s prayer list – which is a collection of handwritten names in a small, tattered notebook – is never far from her side. Each day she begins her ministry with a prayer asking for St Mary of the Cross MacKillop’s intercession, and she then proceeds to say the names of each person on the list. The first page is devoted to priests and from there, it is anyone for whom she has been asked to pray.
Some of the names she recites are of people she knows, but many are not.
Sometimes they want to share their story and Sr Margaret – a self-confessed “people person” – said she was always happy to provide a “listening ear”. However, to be on the list you simply had to ask, ‘will you pray for…’.
Her ministry of prayer began by chance about 30 years ago when she was living at St Joseph’s Convent in Kensington.
“I was in a taxi one day and the taxi driver told me he had brought another Sister home to Kensington the day before and ‘she told me she would pray for me’.
“I said to him that if the Sister said she would pray for you, then she will pray for you. And he asked, will you pray for me too? I said of course, what’s your name?
“So he wrote his name in the back of my diary and that’s how my ministry started!”
Not long after, the same taxi driver informed one of his workmates that there was a ‘Sister at Kensington who prays for people’, and so then he also asked to have his name added to the list.
Over the years the list of handwritten names has continued to grow.
“People would bump into me and give me names and it was mostly by word of mouth,” Sr Margaret explained.
Requests for prayer were included in the Josephite’s newsletter, so she would also include them on her list.
Now aged 85 and a resident at Calvary Flora McDonald Aged Care at Cowandilla, Sr Margaret said some days she was unable to complete the list of names but that didn’t mean these people weren’t being remembered.
“Sometimes I get to the end of the day and I haven’t read the names and when I go to bed I say, God I didn’t get to the book today but you know who they are, you look after them.”
Born in Snowtown in the Mid North, Sr Margaret joined the Josephites in 1955 and was professed in 1958 and until 1972 was known as Sr Lawrence. She trained as a teacher and her first appointment was “four wonderful years” at Barmera.
In 1963/64 she was appointed to the Peterborough Motor Mission and again from 1969 to 1971 she partnered Sr Adrian (Pam) Patterson on the Georgetown Mission, taking religious education to Catholic children attending State schools in the north of the State, sometimes with the Sisters driving up to 1600km in a week.
Later in her life Sr Margaret trained to be a nurse and midwife and undertook administrative work at Tappeiner Court and was deputy principal at Mary MacKillop College from 2003 until her retirement in 2012.
While her prayer list continues to grow, she said her shaky hands sometimes made it difficult to write new names in the book.
Josephite Sister Elizabeth Morris has offered to assist Sr Margaret by transcribing the hundreds of names into a new book, with a hard cover that will be more durable.
“Sr Margaret has been so dedicated to her ministry over the years. You can tell that people appreciate that she is praying to God on their behalf,” she said.