Sister Margaret Mary Kirchner, MM
Born: September 27, 1926
Entered: September 2, 1954
Died: March 31, 1994
Margaret Mary was born in Cleveland, Ohio on September 27, 1926 to Elizabeth and John Kirchner. She was one of four children. She attended Jesu Grammar School in University Heights for one year and St. Ann’s in Cleveland for seven years. After completing her high school at Notre Dame Academy in Cleveland Heights, she attended nursing school at St. Vincent’s Charity Hospital in Cleveland. After nursing school, Margaret Mary was general duty head nurse, office nurse and during the year before entering Maryknoll, she was supervisor of the medical ward at St. Vincent’s Charity Hospital.
In July of 1954, Margaret Mary applied to the Maryknoll Sisters Congregation and was accepted. Later, when asked why she chose Maryknoll, she replied: “I feel that God led me to Maryknoll – more than my having chosen it. I wanted to ‘literally’ give up everything and share what God had given me with those in need. Missionary work had always appealed to me. When I entered Maryknoll, I found out we did not go to the mission for life, as I had thought, but I had a firm conviction that God had brought me here.”
During her formation period in Maryknoll, Margaret Mary’s frankness, her good sense of humor, her alertness, sincerity and friendliness were consistently noted by those in charge. Sister Margaret Mary made her first Profession on March 7, 1957 at the Center. After Profession she was assigned to Taiwan, where she made her Final Profession on March 7, 1963. She spent nine years in Taiwan doing nursing and catechetical work. The beginning years of adjustment were quite difficult for her, especially language study and the irregularity of mission life and she experienced a period of illness. But with the help of God’s grace, she regained her strength and her confidence. She recalled her years in Taiwan with gratitude: “I especially loved being with the women and children in the villages trying to bring Jesus’ love to them in the simple ways they were open to….” And the people in Taiwan loved Sister Margaret Mary. Yet there was something profound stirring in her soul: “I always felt there was a way that extended farther – to the end of the world – no matter where we were physically, something that was still ‘more missionary’ for me.”
In September 1961, she wrote a personal letter to Mother Mary Coleman, expressing her desire to enter the Maryknoll Sisters Cloister: “…I think I want this more than I have ever wanted anything, Mother…” A period of consultation and discernment followed and in a letter dated January 16, 1962, Mother Mary Coleman put the matter to rest: “It seems quite clear to me, dear Sister, that God is calling you to be a contemplative in the active apostolate, rather than in the Cloister…” Sister Margaret Mary accepted this, but the following year, after her Final Profession, she again wrote: “I feel I must tell you that I still do have a deep desire to enter our Cloister. Without my saying it to you once again, Mother, I feel I would have little peace of soul.” Four years later, on March 25, 1967, Sister Margaret Mary did indeed enter and remained a member of the Cloister until her death.
There are levels of life and joy which she communicated to her Cloister community that are embedded in our hearts: the richness and depth of her love for each member of her family, which she continuously and magnanimously shared with us; her significantly graced relationships with a wide circle of beloved friends from East Northport, Long Island, who themselves have formed a precious community of Christian love and prayer. We will always remember Sister Margaret Mary as a woman of intense prayer; a person of conscience whose religious convictions were of the utmost importance to her; a loving human being, who would feel profoundly the sufferings of others; a lover of Jesus and of the mission of Jesus in this world.
We welcome Father James Kirrane, our Main Celebrant today, who has spiritually accompanied our sister for many years, and Father John Moran, a trusted friend from sister’s Taiwan days to the present.