SISTER MARGARET MORAN
1917-2006

Sister Margaret Moran looked upon her life as a journey. She closed her autobiography with these words: “I fully realize that the Spirit of God has been with me every moment of my joyous journey.” This short sentiment reveals much about her.

William and Mae (Kennedy) Moran, Sister Margaret’s parents, were both natives of Port Austin, Michigan. Both were of Irish heritage. Their ancestors had left Ireland following the potato famine, and settled in the Thumb of Michigan. William Moran was familiar with the Adrian Dominican Sisters, since he had attended the parish school that opened in 1879, St. Michael School.

After their marriage the Morans made their home in Port Austin. Margaret, their oldest child, was born there on November 18, 1917, followed by a brother (Harry) and a sister (Dorothy). St. Michael School had closed in 1899, and there was no other Catholic school available, so the Moran youngsters attended a public school and learned about their religion from their parents, their pastor, and from summer catechetical classes held by the Adrian Dominicans.

Several sisters from both the Adrian and Grand Rapids Congregations came from homes in the Thumb, and Margaret met some of them on their home visits. She was greatly attracted to the white habit. She also met the IHM (Immaculate Heart of Mary) sisters, and liked the blue habit, but decided that she didn’t want to wear the high shoes that were part of their garb at that time.

When she graduated from the Port Austin Public High School in June 1935, she registered at St. Joseph College in Adrian (now Siena Heights University). Before long, she knew that she wanted to enter the Adrian Dominican Congregation. In her autobiography, she mentioned her fondness for the sisters, especially for Sister Benedicta Marie Ledwidge, Dean of the College and religion teacher. Her father, however, was opposed to her entrance, so she registered for another year as a student at the college.

After making a retreat, she entered the postulate on February 4, 1937. It is interesting to note that she received the postulant’s veil from Sister Benedicta Marie. She received the habit and her religious name (Sister Rose William) on August 23, and after the required canonical novitiate year, she and her group professed their first vows on August 24, 1938.

Within a short time of profession, Sister Margaret was in a car for Detroit, where she taught on the primary level at St. Theresa School for five years. The future Sisters Shirley Cushing and Gloria Kelly were students at St. Theresa. At Sister Margaret’s wake, Sister Gloria said, “She was teaching third grade. I was a hall guard, and I made it a point to be on her floor so that I could see her. She was little, and so cute.”

During the summers Sister Margaret continued her studies at Siena Heights College, and in August 1940, she received a bachelor’s degree with a major in history and minors in philosophy, French, and English.

The next seventeen years were in Chicago: a year at St. Kilian, where she taught eighth grade for a year; and sixteen years at St. Laurence, where she taught for ten years, and served as superior and principal for the last six years. Two major events occurred during that time. In August 1948, De Paul University awarded her a master’s degree in education with a minor in history, and in August 1951, her mother died. Sister Margaret wrote, “That was a difficult experience, and it was not easy to know that my father was left alone.” She also wrote, “My years in Chicago were special, and I have fond memories of many beautiful sisters who taught at St. Laurence School or spent the summer there while attending Loyola or De Paul University.”

In 1960, she returned to Michigan, where she spent the balance of her religious life. She served as superior and principal at St. Mary in Royal Oak for a year, then was assigned as school supervisor with her residence at Rosary High School in Detroit. Travel was a “must” in this assignment, and she saw much of Ohio, New York, and Michigan. She also served on the Ohio curriculum committee. After eight years in this demanding ministry, she became principal for ten years at Guardian Angels School in Clawson. In 1973, she returned to Port Austin for her father’s funeral.

Her summers were not idle during these years. After studying at the University of Dayton, Ohio, she taught there, taught a workshop in Adrian for superiors, served as a delegate at the 1968 General Chapter, and served on the Interim Chapter Commission.

She had been doing some summer study in pastoral ministry, and in 1979, she left the classroom and became pastoral associate at St. Joan of Arc Parish in St. Clair Shores, a position that she held for eighteen years. In 1982, her expertise as a pastoral minister was heightened when she received a certificate from the Archdiocese of Detroit. She wrote:

My reason for becoming a pastoral minister was to be able to live out more fully my baptismal commitment. There were times when I was led where I did not choose to go, but I trusted that God was at work. He was with me every step of the way.

She celebrated her Golden Jubilee in 1987, and a large picture and words of appreciation from three priests appeared in the parish bulletin. Father Charles wrote:

Perhaps what I find most inspirational about Sister Margaret’s ministry is her graciousness and her openness to innovation. I experienced Sister Margaret’s hospitality about the second day I was here at St. Joan. She took me around and gave me a grand tour of the parish even though she had several duties of her own. With the deacons and the priests so visible here at St. Joan, Sister Margaret brings an important feminine perspective to ministry that would otherwise be overlooked.

When she celebrated her sixtieth year as an Adrian Dominican, another article about her appeared in the parish bulletin. In it was a description of her ministry:

Her numerous ministries included the RCIA, the Marriage Institute, baptism classes, home and hospital visits, prayer services at church and at wakes, emergency food collections, Christian Service at all levels, bereavement/grief sessions, visiting the seniors. The St. Joan Parish community has been greatly blessed by the presence of Sister Margaret Moran.

In 1997, Sister Margaret retired and moved into Oakwood Park Towers in Troy, where Sister Gloria also lived. At the wake Sister Gloria said, “She enjoyed life there. She got involved with some of the older ladies … There were happy times, sad times, and difficult times … We would put our difficulties in God’s hands.”

Sister Margaret died at Troy Beaumont Hospital on May 5, 2006. She was eighty-eight years of age, and had been an Adrian Dominican for almost sixty-eight years.

Her wake was held on May 7 in St. Catherine Chapel. Present were her sister Dorothy Heinen; her sister-in-law Marianne; many nieces, nephews, and great nieces and nephews; Father Martin Winters, a longtime friend; and her numerous Dominican friends.

Sister Peg O’Flynn, Prioress of Great Lakes Dominican Mission Chapter, welcomed those who had come to bid Sister Margaret farewell, and extended sympathy. She summarized Sister Margaret’s life and ministry, and spoke of Sister Margaret’s sense of responsibility, the fact that her autobiography and other reports due in the Chapter Office were always there on time.

Right after Margaret was hospitalized, I went to see her. Although experiencing breathing problems, she removed the oxygen mask as I approached her, and she said, “Oh, Peg, I don’t have my budget in yet!” Our loving God has welcomed her WITHOUT her budget, that’s for sure!

Sister Gloria Kelly said:

She was very talented. She was a talented teacher and a talented administrator … She loved the clergy, and they loved her. She mentored several newly ordained young priests and helped them to learn the ropes.

To say she was dedicated is an understatement. She loved God deeply. Her family was a priority of her life. She had many pictures of her family. She was a real person, a wonderful friend, but a person who was private about a lot of things. All in all, she enjoyed a good time, especially parties, shopping, playing cards, going out to dinner.

Sister Shirley Cushing also spoke.

I’ve known Sister Rose William since I was a student and she was a teacher at St. Theresa School. Later, as an Adrian Dominican, I knew her as a master teacher, an elementary principal, an elementary school supervisor who mentored me, and, again, as a principal to my grand nieces at Guardian Angels School in Clawson. Then she switched to being a pastoral minister at St. Joan of Arc, and how perfectly that role fitted her gentle manner.

Always, even in her retirement, she reached out in her prayer ministry to support other Dominicans in their ministries. I was always one of those lucky ones. As recently as March, Margaret, Gloria, and I went to Sunday Mass together and had lunch afterward. That is my last memory of her, and it is a very happy one. We laughed a lot.

She was fun … She was never one to inconvenience anybody. She always called forth the best from any interaction one might have with her. She was a generous servant of the Church, unassuming, kind, thoughtful, and prayerfully helpful when a need arose. She was a loyal friend.

Sister Margaret’s niece, Kitty Murphy, spoke for the family.

My earliest recollection of my Aunt Margaret revolves around something called her three-year visits. About two weeks prior, my mother, in a cleaning frenzy, would announce that Sister Rose William, or “Rosy” as we affectionately called her, was coming. . . . After a week or so she returned to somewhere called “St. Laurence,” and did not reappear for three years.

When I was around ten, she took my sister and me on the train to Chicago to stay with the other “sisters” … We were totally unprepared for the power of sisterhood that we encountered. During that week, our eyes were opened to a community of women who ran a huge convent, oversaw the education of the K-8 urban school next door, prepared the meals for priest and nuns, navigated the city with ease, oversaw the Sunday financials … and my aunt orchestrated it all with quiet, but firm, leadership.

She taught us, as well, about a more personal meaning of sisterhood. She took very seriously her role as Bud’s and Dorothy’s older sister in her family of three. For their offspring, her nieces and nephews, our aunt became the bond that joined our lives, the thread that kept us interwoven, even if our visits were few and far between.

Sister Celestine Dunne praised Sister Margaret as a competent and kind administrator.

Father Martin Winters also spoke.

I’ve been well acquainted with the Adrian Dominicans for many years. I grew up attending St. Columbanus School in Chicago. So I knew the Adrians for many years before I met Sister Margaret.

When I was at St. Laurence in Chicago, I was a young priest, teaching in a high school and residing at St. Laurence. She was so helpful to me. You might say that she was my mentor.

Sister Margaret’s funeral liturgy was celebrated on May 8, 2006, in St. Catherine Chapel. Father Roland Calvert, OSFS, was the presider and homilist. Father Michael Bugarin of St. Joan Parish concelebrated. Among his remarks, Father Calvert said:

The key to good teaching is that the teacher must love the subject matter, love the students, and, at the deepest level, love life itself. When the students see someone who is enthusiastic and energetic and fully alive, that communicates more than the specific subject matter. A great joy in life, a great love of life, are legacies that Sister Margaret leaves for many people.

Father Bugarin was also a newly ordained priest when he met Sister Margaret some years ago, and he gave a short remembrance after Communion. Father said in part:

She was the pastoral associate there … She was a holy, holy woman. She was holy and loving, dedicated to the Lord and to her family. We worked together well … What a huge heart she had. She represented the Lord in so many circumstances. People could always go to her, and she shared the joys and sorrows of many of them. The Lord really did bless the work of her hands … I’m grateful to have known and worked with her.

Father Calvert said, “Sister Margaret has gone to God in the springtime of the year as color and beauty return to the earth.” With her God and the loved ones who preceded her, she is now enjoying the color and beauty of eternity.