One of Sr. Margaret Mary’s many great gifts was her talent for writing. Reflecting this gift, much of her biography which we share here, is from her own hand. When asked what the word Mission meant to her, Sr. Margaret Mary answered “Mission territory is everywhere we go, with God’s inspiration and grace. Through this inspiration we are really sent to share all the love and hope He has filled our hearts with.” Her answer summarized in two sentences what Margaret Mary’s life was about.
Born to Patrick and Margaret Quinn on April 7, 1920 Margaret Mary wrote “I came from a very loving, close-knit family – the youngest of eight. We were four boys and four girls. Two of my little brothers died in infancy. Being the youngest, I was truly blessed being surrounded by so much love and excellent example. I was very much attached to home. When I told my parents of my desire to enter the convent, Dad said, “I’ll give you a month.” Rita, as she was called by her family, entered the Missionary Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in Rome on October 22, 1936 and the one month predicted by her father turned into nearly 83 years.
There seem to have been two threads of her religious vocation: the first was becoming a Franciscan. “My definite call to become a Franciscan came during a school retreat in St. Vincent’s School in Cork which I attended…The Friars in the Franciscan Church in Cork, where I so frequently prayed for guidance also had a tremendous influence in my youthful dreams. Then when I met Mother Scholastica, who visited our school one day…I had no doubt whatsoever in knowing which community to enter and which path to follow.” Her Reception took place in Rome on April 16, 1937 and “was one of the happiest days of my life. My dream and hopes of becoming a Franciscan Missionary Sister were now truly beginning.” She was given the name Sister Mary Felicia which she later changed to Margaret Mary, her baptismal name. She was professed on August 25, 1939 and made her final vows on August 15, 1944.
The second thread of her vocation was teaching. “Since I always had, as far back as I can remember, a great love for teaching …I knew the “Mission Field” was beckoning me onward! There was no turning back for me…” Thus began 54 years as an educator, which she said was part of the fabric of her life. She taught in schools in Brooklyn, Savanah, Chicago, Boston, Syracuse, and Rockford. She was beloved by pupils in each place and she in turn said “I thank God for the great privilege I have had in my life in meeting so many wonderful children and their parents. I feel so blessed.” Past pupils continued to stay in touch with her, throughout her life.
When Margaret retired from teaching in 1994, she undertook yet another ministry – that of Pastoral care in Our Lady of Pompei Parish in Syracuse. For the next 13 years she visited Nursing Homes, met with families to prepare funeral liturgies, was a constant pastoral presence to all she met and helped welcome new immigrants coming into the area. When interviewed, she once said “Every Mission I’ve been in, I’ve felt nothing but happiness. I have just lovely memories…God has blessed me so much!”
In 2007, she moved to Tenafly. Here she continued with her beautiful knitting and needle work and was a happy and peaceful presence to the Sisters and all here. She also now had the time to enter more deeply into her relationship with God, which was so central to her whole life. Among her things, we found a small piece of paper on which she had written the following:
“Grant me, O Lord my God,
A mind to know You
A heart to seek You
A Wisdom to find You
in waiting for You
And a hope of finally
Margaret Mary’s prayer was answered as she slipped quietly away to that final embrace on the evening of October 10th. While we celebrate her 80th Jubilee here in our chapel on October 24th, she will celebrate in heaven with those who have gone before her! We thank God for the gift that she has been to us all.
The Tenafly Community
To send flowers to Sr. Margaret Mary Burke, MFIC's family, please visit our floral section.