Sister Norbert McLaughlin, MM
Born: January 2, 1917
Entered: December 8, 1941
Died: August 20, 2012
Monday, August 20, 2012, at the Maryknoll Sisters Residential Care in Ossining, New York, Sister Norbert McLaughlin gently gave herself into God’s loving arms. Sister was 95 years old and a Maryknoll Sister for 70 years.
The phrase from Matt 11:29 “learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart” aptly describes how Sister Norbert lived her life in deep prayer, blessing each community with whom she lived with compassion and love. When informed of Sister Norbert’s death, the Marshallese responded with “she is a saint!” Her love for the people was felt even though Sister could not converse with them in Marshallese.
Winifred Teresa McLaughlin was born in Wilmington, Delaware January 2, 1917 to Patrick J. and Margaret (McElwaine) McLaughlin. She had two sisters and four brothers all of whom predeceased her. Sister Norbert attended St. Paul’s Commercial School, Wilmington and graduated from Wilmington High School in 1936. Following graduation she worked at Sheldon-Gordon Fuel Company.
Sister Norbert first became interested in religious life by a priest who spoke to her seventh grade class at St. Paul’s School in Wilmington. She became active in a variety of religious societies prior to entering Maryknoll. These included the Blessed Virgin Mary Sodality, the Children of Mary Sodality, St. Vincent de Paul Society and St Paul’s Business Girls Sodality. “I wanted to give myself to sharing my faith and love of Jesus with others,” she later commented, a passion that would ultimately lead her into her life’s work.
Sister Norbert entered Maryknoll December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. After completing her formation at Maryknoll, making her First Vows on June 30, 1944, and serving for two years at the Motherhouse and Bethany, Sister Norbert was assigned to work in a catechetical ministry in Guadalupe, California, a position she would hold from 1946-1955. She made her Final Vows on June 30, 1947 in California.
From 1955-1960 Sister Norbert continued her work in catechetics, in Houston, Texas, and a few months in Walterboro, North Carolina. She often recalled these years as most satisfying because “I was part of their lives – prayer, work and living among the children and their families.”
In 1960 Sister Norbert was sent to Hawaii to serve first as school clerk in Kaneohe, community administration and lastly at a time when there were more than a hundred sisters in the Region, as secretary to the Maryknoll Sisters Regional Governing Board at Punahou and Lanikai, Kailua.
Then in 1975 the Marshall Islands called. The Marshallese people had been complaining that they could not understand their current Bibles, which were written in an older version of their language. Fr. Leonard Hacker SJ, a group of ministers and lay people from the Protestant churches had begun retranslating the Bible into the modern tongue. They only needed someone to type it up for them. Though Sr. Norbert knew nothing of the language, she was commissioned to do the task. Five years later, the manuscript, typed by Sister Norbert on an old typewriter with which she also created several carbon copies was sent to the Philippines for publication. When the galley prints were returned for final correction only two typing errors were found in the entire text.
Following this arduous task Sister Norbert found still more need for her secretarial services. For the next ten years, she served as bookkeeper and treasurer for the elementary and high school as well as the parish on Majuro atoll. Sister Norbert made cash receipt slips by hand perforating the paper so it could be torn from the booklets she made. The financial situation of parish and school improved greatly. Records were kept with accuracy. Text books were hard to come by so again Sister Norbert came to the rescue with mimeograph copies of Spellers, Phonics and Math workbooks. Much of the academic success of the school was due to this printing. Later, reflecting on her time in the Marshall Islands, Sister Norbert said, “I left a good piece of my heart there.” Through her prayer ministry for the Marshall Islands she continued to hold the Marshallese people in her heart.
After returning to Maryknoll Sisters Center in 1990, Sister Norbert continued using her skills in the congregation’s Treasury Department performing with the quiet calm manner that endeared her to all who lived and worked with her. No task was too small or insignificant. Each sister who has lived or worked with Sister Norbert has described her as a “wonderful person” always positive in her thinking, smiling a welcome, helping wherever she could.
We welcome and thank our friend and co-missioner Fr. Tom Marciniak SJ, for presiding at this Liturgy of Christian Burial.