Sister Margaret Hanlon, MM

Born: June 10, 1940
Entered: October 18, 1960
Died: December 9, 1982

We have come together this morning to celebrate, to remember and to strengthen the bonds of family, vocation and friendship we share because of the lives of Peg and Gert.

The facts of their deaths are few and stark.

The lives of our Sisters Margaret Hanlon and Gertrude Vaccaro, along with those of 44 other people, were brought to an abrupt end on Thursday, December 9th, when a plane crashed and exploded at La Serena, Chile. Margaret Hanlon was born to Martin and Jane Bryan Hanlon on June 10, 1940, in San Francisco, California, the second in their family of six children. Peg attended Dominican College in San Rafael, California, for 2 years before entering the Maryknoll Sisters Novitiate at Valley Park, Missouri on October 18, 1960. Following first profession in 1963, Peg came to Maryknoll, New York, and after graduation from Mary Rogers College went on for graduate studies at Fordham University, New York, where she received a Master of Arts in English. During this same period, Peg’s creative energies became evident in her musical studies and she continued to share her love of music throughout her life.

Even while pursuing her studies, Peg was relishing her first experiences of mission here in the United States: at San Juan Capistrano in 1965, and the following year among the Chinese community at Transfiguration School in New York City.

In 1968 she was assigned to the Bolivia/Peru Region where, after language studies, she taught religion and English at Maryknoll High School in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Although not a teacher by inclination, she nevertheless made a valuable contribution because of her natural interest, enthusiasm and ability to communicate so much of herself.

Towards the end of 1972, Peg returned to the United States to join the  Development Department as a member of the World Awareness Team in Chicago. She felt a deep commitment and responsibility for sharing with the people and Church of the U.S. the experiences and insights gained during her years in Bolivia.

Peg returned to Bolivia in June 1975, where she joined a Rural Pastoral Team in the Santa Cruz Area at Muyurina. During those years she also served as Orientation Director for the Bolivia Region.

Peg’s talents and gifts for leadership became increasingly evident: she was elected to serve as Coordinator of the Bolivia Regional Governing Board (1976-1978) and was a delegate to I.A.C. (Inter-Assembly Conference) in 1976. She was a delegate to the General Assembly in 1978 at which time she was elected to the Central Governing Board of the Congregation.

Reflecting at the time of our mid-term report, Peg concluded with: “It has been three years of administrative duties as well as the sharing of dreams and visions; of working with papers as well as the deepening of prayer; years of pain and anxiety as well as love and awe. Being in a position of leadership at a time when the Church is being persecuted has led me deeper into the scriptures and the mystery of the Eucharist. We have suffered the loss of our friends through illness, accident, or violence. We have allowed ourselves some time to mourn – perhaps not enough; we have consoled and strengthened each other with our faith. As Cesar Jerez, the Jesuit Provincial in Central America, once said to us in El Salvador: ‘There is nothing so exquisite as the shadow of God in the desert.’ This has been my experience these three years, finding God, or God finding me, in the mystery that is at the core of our lives.”

Four years ago the five of us did not understand the gift of friendship in mission which had been given us. During these years we grew to trust and to understand our gift. Today, we are drawn more deeply into the mystery of that gift and again we do not comprehend. As our memory sharpens in the days and years ahead, so will our understanding of the gift of this moment.

For these past four years in leadership for the Community, the five of us began each day with a period of shared reflection and prayer. One of our most frequent prayers is taken from the Gospel of Luke, “…for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation to His people in the forgiveness of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God, when the day shall dawn upon us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:76-79).

In a spirit of hope and trust let us now celebrate the mystery of our faith.