Margaret was born on January 22, 1927, in Butte, Nebraska to August Sibbel and Catherine Halbur. Margaret was the youngest of four girls. She also had one older brother and four younger brothers. They were a happy farm family with everyone sharing the responsibilities of the farm.
All four grandparents came from Germany and gave their families a strong work ethic and a firm foundation in the Catholic faith. Mass was central in their lives along with praying the rosary daily during Lent, Advent, May, and October.
Margaret attended Ss. Peter and Paul School in Butte with her siblings. After completing eighth grade, she asked to go to the convent, not knowing that her three older sisters had already asked and were told to wait until they were older. Obediently, they complied.
When Margaret asked her father for permission, he hesitated. Margaret, sensing his reluctance said, “Would you stop me if I tried to go?” When her dad said, “No, I wouldn’t” that was all Margaret needed to hear. Her next step was to visit the sisters to learn what preparations were necessary, and by August 18 she was on her way to Milwaukee via a 650-mile train ride accompanied by Sister Rolanda, her eighth-grade teacher. Margaret was the first in the family to enter religious life. Two of her older sisters, Leona and Marie, two nieces, and six cousins followed.
Margaret attended high school at St. Joseph Convent in Milwaukee and spent several summers taking courses at Madonna High School in Aurora, Illinois. She was received on June 13, 1943, and given the name Sister Bertille. Her education continued at Alverno College, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education with minors in Music and Social Studies. As a teacher, teacher-organist, and later as a principal, Sister Margaret continued her education at Wayne State College in Nebraska, earning a Master's in Education with a certificate in administration.
Sister Margaret spent over 50 years ministering in the Omaha Archdiocese and is remembered for her leadership in rural Catholic Schools. In the 1960s, it became clear that changes were needed if Catholic education was to survive. After many months of meetings, six parishes collaborated to form two Catholic school systems in 1968. Four sisters and four lay teachers formed the faculty at each school. After several years, the two school systems continued with all lay personnel. Sister served as an educator in other areas including two years with the Cheyenne nation in Montana, one year in Illinois, eight years in Wisconsin.
In addition to her educational responsibilities, Sister Margaret participated in School Sisters’ community work, as well as civic and Church organizations. She served as a delegate for the Omaha Provincial Assembly (1961 – 1980) and for the U.S. Provincial Assembly ((1983 – 2012). She ministered as Provincial for the Omaha Province for one year and then was elected to join as one of the Regional Directors from 1980 – 1983. She supported the initiation of the Center of Rural Affairs in Nebraska, which was a significant force in passing state legislation and starting projects that benefitted those in agriculture. She was active in the Diocesan Sisters’ Council, helped establish the first Nebraska Deanery Pastoral Council, and helped plan the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council.
Many times she also included in her ministry such tasks as visiting and taking Communion to the sick and giving special help to students who were having academic problems.
Sister Margaret continued to serve in the ministry of education until she felt the call to retire from her active roles. In January 2009, she moved to Milwaukee to spend her retirement in prayer and reflection at St. Joseph Center and later at Sacred Heart Center. She said, “Having time to pray in the Adoration Chapel at the Motherhouse is very special. Living at St. Joseph Center, where I spent my formation years and being surrounded by the community’s art and music, has enriched my life. I also feel fortunate living closer to my sister, Sister Leona, at Campbellsport, and having opportunities for regular visits, sharing faith and life together.”
In addition to her memories of ministry, Sister Margaret recalled some special community and family memories, including having her sisters Leona and Marie also join the School Sisters of St. Francis; celebrating Jubilees of her family and friends; participating in community gatherings; and other times of being together with people who have touched her life. Sister Margaret thanked God for her own 75th Jubilee as a School Sister in 2018. Sisters Leona and Marie were already celebrating the day in heaven, but Sister Margaret’s other family and friends were able to rejoice with her at that time.
Now Sister Margaret, may you rejoice in God’s great gift of heaven. Your life and ministry have been so much a gift to God and others. May you experience the joy of eternal peace and continue your prayers for us, your sisters, and your family and friends.