Margaret was the eldest of eight children. Her parents Clarence and Margaret, created a loving and faith-filled family and worked hard to provide a good education for their children. The close knit extended family was involved in many community, church and social activities and from an early age Margaret had a strong sense of family, community, friendship and outreach to others.
Margaret was professed as a Sister of St Joseph in 1956 and taught primary and secondary classes at schools in country areas and in and around Adelaide. Margaret was an excellent teacher, interested in every one of her students.
Her goals and initiatives as principal of Caritas College in Port Augusta and Mary MacKillop College in Kensington were outstanding. Margaret wanted an education that would be ‘rigorous, creative and intellectually stimulating’ and a college that would be a ‘caring community in action’. Then there were building projects; further curriculum opportunities in art, science, technology and music; the first Catholic school to introduce Aboriginal Studies at Year 12.
Margaret’s outreach and compassion towards the less fortunate and her stand for justice were hallmarks of her teaching, her work on committees and boards at State and diocesan levels, and as a principal.
A foundation member of the Josephite Reconciliation Circle, Margaret remained an active member for many years. She valued and respected the presence and wise guidance of Alitya and the many other Aboriginal people with whom she worked over the years.
She was awarded the Centenary Medal for service to the community which, along with many other tributes to her excellence in education and outreach to others, are public recognition of who she was and what she did. But it was her everyday approach to people and to life that was treasured and admired so much.
When others might be thinking of retirement Margaret became a volunteer at Mt Carmel College assisting refugee students. She encouraged and inspired her students to believe in themselves as she accompanied them on their journeys in a new land.
About 12 months ago it became necessary for Margaret to move into palliative care and an oxygen supply soon became her constant companion and her actual life support. Although her health declined and she became physically weaker she was able to live in community at Kensington until the last week of her life. She was an integral part of the community and maintained her passion and interest in public and current affairs especially those related to care of the earth and the needs of the poor.
Margaret died peacefully in Mary Potter Hospice in North Adelaide with the Sisters of St Joseph and members of her family quietly visiting her in her last few days, holding her gently in a circle of love. There is a moving description of death being like a gentle pause between one breath and the next. On the afternoon of May 7, Margaret had a gentle pause between one breath and her next and found herself in eternity with the God she loved and had served so faithfully.
The poet Patrick Kavanagh in his poem. In Memory of my Mother says he will remember his mother in the places and events of her daily life. We will remember Margaret when we gather as friends, community or family, when we try to grapple with local and global concerns and in the places and events of daily life.
Vale, Margaret. In St Joseph’s care we leave you.
– Sr Pauline Morgan rsj