Sister Margaret Rose Winkelmann, MM

Born: December 10, 1916
Entered: September 6, 1942
Died: January 8, 2013

On the morning of January 8, 2013, on Residential Care III, Sister Margaret Rose Winkelmann was awakened by the nurse-aide bringing her the usual cup of black coffee.  About fifteen minutes later, the aide returned to find the coffee cup on the bedside stand and Sister lying back on her pillow not responding.  God had called Margaret Rose to her heavenly reward.  She was 96 years old and had been a Maryknoll Sister for 70 years.

Elizabeth Ann Winkelmann was born in Jefferson City, Missouri on December 10th, 1916.  She was the daughter of William F. and Anna M. (Kemna) Winkelmann. She had two brothers, James and Anthony and two sisters, Mary Ann and Catherine Clare.

She was raised in Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, Archdiocese of St Louis, and graduated from Notre Dame Academy, Quincy, in 1934.  Her interest in missions was sparked through her teachers in grade school. She later said, “We were always taught about the missions, and to make sacrifices for them.  On Friday afternoons we would read all kinds of mission magazines.”

For two years following her graduation, she worked as Assistant Librarian in a local Library.  In the meantime, both her sisters had entered religious life – Mary Anne and Catherine Clare both joined the School Sisters of Notre Dame.  From  childhood, she herself  knew that she wanted to be a Sister and (in her own words) “I wanted to share with people of other cultures the gift I had received at birth, the Faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ, God with us, who loved me and that I could  know and talk to”.  The thought of leaving home and family, however, was very difficult for her but, she finally made the decision and entered the Maryknoll Sisters Congregation in 1942 knowing that it was God’s grace that brought her here.  She made her First Vows on March 7, 1945 and her Final Vows on March 7, 1948 both at Maryknoll, NY.  She attended Maryknoll Teachers College from 1944 to 1948, earning her Bachelor of Education Degree.

During her novitiate, on one particular Sunday, Bishop Blomjous from Tanganyika, East Africa, spoke to the novices about the various missions and congregations there. This sparked Margaret Rose’s interest. Shortly after the Maryknoll Fathers were settled in mission in Musoma, Tanganyika, Mother Mary Columba received a formal invitation from Bishop Blomjous and a request from the Maryknoll Fathers for Maryknoll Sisters to come to the Musoma Area.  Margaret Rose had loved hearing their diaries from Tanganyika, which had frequent mention of the names Kowak and Nyegina.  Little did she realize then that she herself would soon be sent to those very places!

In 1948, along with Sisters Joan Michel Kirsch, Mary Bowes and Mary Stanislaus Canon, Margaret Rose was assigned to be part of the new Maryknoll Sisters mission presence in Tanganyika. At the time and until 1961, the country was still under British rule.  The Maryknoll Fathers and a Maryknoll Brother had arrived at Kowak two years earlier and had requested Maryknoll Sisters to work with the young women and to establish a local religious community.

The newly assigned Sisters started their long 17- day journey on Dec. 2nd, 1948, and finally arrived in the small village of Kowak, where a group of six young girls, who wanted to be Sisters, were waiting for them.  Needless to say, the Sisters were relieved and grateful to have reached their destination!  These aspirants taught them the Dhluo language and from their close association with them, they learned the culture and customs.   Here, the Sisters opened a dispensary, helped in the catechumenate, prepared boys and girls for Baptism and First Communion, did home visiting and started a primary school for girls, directing and tutoring aspirants, many of whom became the first members of the future community, the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa.

From 1957 to 1965, at the request of the Tanganyika Episcopal Conference, Sister Margaret Rose established two secondary schools – Marian College (later called Secondary School) in Morogoro in 1957, and Rosary College in Mwanza in 1961.  In 1965, during her leadership a third school was established, Rugambwa Secondary School in Bukoba, in the western part of the country.  The schools were all staffed by Maryknoll Sisters and local teachers.  Sister Margaret Rose herself was Headmistress and taught at Marian College from 1957 to 1960, and from 1961 to 1962 at Rosary College in Mwanza.  During her long tenure as Regional Superior, Sister Margaret Rose was a delegate to four General Chapters.  She returned to the USA for Congregational Service in 1970, where she did fund-raising for four years.  This also gave her the opportunity to care for her mother until her mother’s death.  In 1979, she returned to Tanzania and taught English and Religion in the Diocesan Junior Seminary in Musoma until 1992.

After her renewal in 1992, Margaret Rose remained at the Maryknoll Sisters Center and worked in the Development Department as Major Donor Acknowledgement Clerk until she retired in 2006.  At this time she took the Maryknoll Sisters Donor Services Department as her prayer ministry.  After her health began to decline, she became a member of the Residential Care Unit and resided there until her death.

If one were to choose from the many virtues and characteristics that described Sister Margaret Rose, the first would be her compassion.  No matter the issue, the event, the crisis, she seemed to take it into her inner self and identify with it.  She rejoiced over the good times and shed real tears over tragic ones. Sisters newly assigned to Africa would receive letters of welcome upon their arrival.  She was also a great listener and over the years, many have shared great news with her or poured out their hearts greatest sorrows – her time was theirs.  Little wonder that through the years, one would find her at her desk after midnight finishing the work of the day or answering the many letters she had received from friends or former students.  Her joy was unbounded when Barack Obama, whose father was of Luo descent, was elected President of the United States.  Indeed, she will be missed by many.  May she rest in peace!

We offer our sincere condolences to Sister’s niece and sister-in-law who are not able to be with us today.  We welcome a former student, now with the Tanzania Consulate in NY City, an Immaculate Heart Sister now doing graduate work at Duquesne University; two former Lay Missioners and loyal friends.   Many other messages of condolence have come in via e-mail.

We welcome and thank Rev. Edward Dougherty, Superior General of the Maryknoll Fathers, a good friend to whom we offer our condolences and welcome as celebrant at our Eucharistic Liturgy of Christian Burial.