Sister Margaret Earley

Sister Margaret EarleyWhen sharing stories about Sister Margaret recently, one sister-colleague said, “When I think of Margaret I think of her smile. She was always eager to talk to young sisters, to listen to them, and encourage them.”

Another responded, “Margaret is an incredibly brilliant woman, but also incredibly humble. Her everyday demeanor and interactions were marked by good humor and an infectious giggle. We younger sisters who worked with her at the college found her to be supportive and helpful, someone who did not assume mentorship because of seniority and expertise, but because she genuinely cared for her sisters.”

Sister Margaret’s smile has been and still is one of her most enduring qualities.

Sister Margaret was born into a loving Irish Catholic family on the northwest side of Chicago in June 1929, the oldest in her family. Over the years, she kept close to her family who celebrated her 90th birthday with a surprise party.

After graduating from Alvernia High School, she entered the School Sisters of St. Francis community. Her early years of ministry included teaching elementary and high school in Milwaukee before being sent to Rome to study theology. When she returned to Milwaukee, she continued her studies at Marquette University where she earned her Ph.D. While studying at Marquette, she was also the Assistant Director of Postulants at the motherhouse, where many came to know her as a kind and caring presence.

In 1966, Sister Margaret shared her talents with the community helping write a new rule of life for our community called Response in Faith. She had a hand in writing that document, formulating the six principles that organized the original version. Beyond using her theological knowledge for the community and in teaching at Alverno, Margaret was actively involved in her discipline. She took to heart profoundly some of the deeper calls of Vatican II that opened in 1963.

Sister Margaret’s talents were also shared on the national level and international level. Did you know that Margaret organized the first national conference of women theologians which was held at Alverno College in June 1971? The work of these theologians was coordinated with an International Conference of Learned Societies that was held the next year in Los Angeles.

Sister Margaret had started many years of teaching and scholarship at Alverno College in 1966. When she retired in 2012 after more than 40 years, she said, “Over the course of these many years, Alverno has been a special place for me, integral to my identity as a School Sister of St. Francis. Robert Greenleaf’s call to care for the institution has always rung true for me. The college’s mission and goal, centered as it is on the student and her development, is inherent to my vocation to education and to religious life.” One student said of her, “Her wisdom, humor, and intellect made for a dynamic and interesting classroom experience.”

Margaret’s care for our sisters lasted throughout the years. When our province was facing the move of sisters from Campbellsport, Margaret brought her deep knowledge of the spiritual dimensions of loss and grieving to them in workshops she conducted with Sister Judeen Schulte. Themes of journeying and growing permeated reflection, sharing, and experience.

 As she celebrates her 75th Jubilee, we thank Sister Margaret for sharing her many gifts including her keen intelligence, engaging and insightful teaching, her life of mentorship and service to others, and her ever-present Irish smile!

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