Written on: March 31, 2011
The following reflection was delivered by Sister Julia Lanigan at the Funeral Liturgy on April 5, 2011
As the Psalmist so rightly exclaimed, “Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of God’s faithful ones…” How surely we believe this and how easy it is to believe about a woman of such clear character,
good humor and gentle strength as Margaret Mary Scott—Sister Margaret Mary—Sister Mary Louise—our beloved sister and friend.
Margaret Mary was born to James Scott and Mary McCoy in 1915 in Wakefield, MA. She grew up in Tewksbury and Lowell, MA, in the Immaculate Conception Parish—which had also been her Mother’s home parish. She had two sisters and maintained close ties with them over the years. Her sister, Bertha, predeceased her, but her
sister, Eileen Jones, still lives in Peabody, MA. Unfortunately, Eileen’s health was not good enough to allow her to be with us today in person and her niece, Mary Ellen Hatfield, is home assisting Eileen. Surely they are both with us in spirit in communion of faith as we gather to celebrate the life of their beloved sister and aunt.
It was at the Immaculate Conception School that she received her formal religious education under the instruction of the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart. They clearly made an impression on her because it was right after graduating from Lowell High School that Margaret
Mary joined this congregation in August of 1932—only 11 years after its founding as a congregation separate from the Ottawa community. Although the congregation was new, its works were clearly thriving, for by September Margaret Mary had already embarked on her teaching career at Holy Angels School in Buffalo. The formation
process in those days clearly embraced the “on the job training” model!
Sister Margaret Mary did return to the Motherhouse at Oak Lane (Melrose) for her canonical year of novitiate after two years of teaching, then went right back to the classroom for her first stint at St. Joan of Arc in Queens. Studying weekends and summers, she completed her own Bachelor of Education degree from D’Youville College and Masters in Guidance and Counseling from the
Massachusetts State College at Salem.
Her educational ministry continued non-stop for 62 years as Sister Margaret Mary served as teacher, principal, guidance counselor, and assistant principal in various places. Before 1969 she was missioned for 3 years in Ogdensburg, 12 years in Buffalo, 11 years in New York,8 years in Lowell, and 1 year in Atlanta. From 1969 until she “retired” from the classroom in 1996 she ministered in various schools in her beloved New York which she came to call “home.”
These “bare facts” depict Sister Margaret Mary’s accomplishments but do little to capture the “person” that we all knew and loved. She was a prayerful woman of quiet demeanor, but all knew her also knew her to be a person with a mind of her own who knew what she intended to do and exactly how she wanted to do it. Those who were here last evening heard wonderful stories about her quick wit, her concern for others, her gracious ways, her interest in many things and her special love for all things New York.
In the classroom, she was not only a good teacher but one both well-liked and well-respected by her students. One of my younger sisters (Liz) had Sister Margaret Mary (who is still Sister Mary Louise to her!) in sixth grade in Lowell and thought she was the most wonderful teacher in the world. Two years later Liz went back to school after summer vacation and found that Margaret Mary had been moved to a grade and was going to have Liz’s class again. Liz came home walking on air! I didn’t meet this amazing “Sister Mary Louise” personally until years later. When I did, I introduced myself and told her I was Liz’s sister. Her eyes immediately lit up as she told me that Liz was just about the greatest student she ever taught. From that moment oh, Margaret Mary and I were friends, but to her, I always remained first and foremost, “Liz’s sister.”
For the last 20 or so years of her time in New York, Margaret Mary spent her weekends and “free time” at St. John the Baptist Church in Manhattan which became her home-away-from-home. She worked there with the parish people and the Capuchins, serving as sacristan, Eucharistic Minister, and generally a Iynchpin of the parish operation. Once she “retired” in 1996, she spent more time there, commuting by bus from Queens and carting the altar linens back and forth. For all those years she laundered them personally—and starched ironed them “perfectly!” We heard last night that once when she was spending some vacation time at her sister’s home in Florida, they actually mailed the altar linens down to her—and she did them and mailed them back! When failing health indicated the need to move to the Motherhouse in 2000, leaving New York was truly difficult for her. But I believe leaving St. John’s was, for her, the hardest thing of all. The mark she left there is apparent, however, because even though she left eleven years ago, several parishioners from there have come to be with us today.
Once Sister Margaret Mary was here in Yardley,however, she continued to maintain her interest in people. One of the new friends she made was Alexandra Levy—the young student who came to teach some of our elders how to use the Internet and who became Sister Margaret Mary’s favorite “teacher.” Alexandra continued her lessons then long beyond her promised service hours and has kept in touch with Margaret Mary ever since. She’s here today, having come in from New York to join us in this time of remembrance and fond farewell. There are also several here from the staff of St. Joan of Arc School. They blessed us last night by sharing some of their memories of Sister while she was Assistant Principal and Guidance Counselor.
Both last night and today we’ve also had members of the staffs of the Motherhouse, D’Youville Manor and St. Joseph Manor with us to pay tribute to Sister Margaret. Despite her health limitations, she made a place in her heart for each of them. It’s clear from their stories that she found a welcome place in their hearts as well.
Brought together here as Sisters, family and friends of Sister Margaret Mary, let us commend her to the loving arms of Jesus and thank God for the rich blessing she has been in all of our lives!