Eulogy for Sister Margaret Rourke — Dec. 23, 1947 – June 1, 2018

June 11, 2018 by

VIGIL: June 11, 2018, at the Nazareth Motherhouse
EULOGIST: Sister Marilyn Wall

“As for your zeal, it will always be proportionate to the love for God in your heart; see that it springs from a great love and it will be great.” 

— Maxims of Perfection, Chapter XI, No.1

Sister Margaret Rourke was born on a very cold night, Dec. 23, 1927, at her family’s farm home, 11 miles northwest of McCracken, in the southeast corner of Trego County.  She was baptized, Margaret Louise, at St. Mary’s Church in McCracken on Jan. 14, 1928. She was the fifth of seven living children.

Of her childhood, she said, “I grew up close to the soil and close to nature. As a child I spent time contemplating the vastness of the sky and its distance from the earth. I loved to explore the green pastures, play in the waterholes after a rain, climb hills with my brothers and sisters and play imaginary games under the trees or on the hillside.”

Margaret talked about one of her earliest awakenings about God. It was on a bright Sunday morning when she was about five years old. The family was riding to church with the five oldest children seated in the back and she was sitting on a cream can, as was customary.  She asked, “When will we be finished going to Church?”

Her mother and the others tried to explain that they would never get finished. “We will go every Sunday every year all the time.” She said that was unfathomable to her, but it caused her to ponder who this God might be and what was he like.

One of the things she said she really lacked was social interactions with children outside her family and relatives. She went to a one-room school with about 10 students. She had one classmate through third grade, and that classmate was her cousin, Marjorie Rourke. After third grade, Marjorie’s family moved and Margaret was the only one in her class. However, she said her high school years were a good contrast.

When Margaret was ready for high school, her two older sisters, Lucille and Eileen, who had stayed home a year to help during their mother’s illness, were ready for their junior and sophmore years. The three of them stayed at an apartment that her family rented in Ellis and went to school there.

After high school, Margaret went to Marymount in Salina. She said that she felt early in her time there that she might be called to religious life … but she waited until the end of the year to talk about it just in case a young man might sweep her off of her feet. In the end, God’s call was clear. Margaret entered this community of St. Joseph on March 19, 1947 … 71 years ago. On March 19, 1948, she received the habit and the name Sister Mary Thomasine. Living band members are Sisters Christella Buser, Vivian Boucher and Mary Savoie.

Her first mission was Tipton where she taught grades 1, 2 and 3 (about 45 children). Sister Christella, who was in her band, was also in Tipton for the same five years. Her second mission was Leoville, where she taught the same grades but had only about 26 children. Also on that same mission in Leoville was Sister Ann Louis, her principal. The two of them became lifelong friends and supported each other in all areas and especially in their spiritual journeys. After two years in Cawker City, she was assigned to Sacred Heart High School to teach math which was a real stretch for her. But the biggest stretch was going to St. John’s High School in Beloit to teach biology, chemistry and physics. She had taken one course in chemistry seven years earlier and five hours in biology in summer school. With Sister Marie Kelly’s help she survived.

In her life review Sister Margaret relates, “The years after the Vatican II Council were both rocky and exciting. I considered my nine years in Clyde to be more growth-producing that any other nine years in my life.” At Clyde, Margaret worked with Sister Judy Stephens and an innovative team that offered catechetical education and pastoral support to several parishes in the region. In Margaret’s words, “The changes, the new ministry, my readiness to risk growing, my experience with the CPE course under Father Frost at Independence, Iowa, the many workshops, conventions, courses, congregational thrust toward renewal, friendships, outings and travels were all contributing factors.”  

Eventually, Margaret took a position in adult education and parish ministry at Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish in Overland Park, Kan. This position lasted for 12 years, and as in all of her ministries, she continued to grow in zeal and in her life with God.

Throughout her life Margaret was courageous in the cause of justice and relentless in the alleviation of poverty. In her “retirement” from active ministry she was mission coordinator for Appeals for our Brazilian Sisters. This she did with the same enthusiasm and diligence as she did everything else. For ten-plus years she organized parish presentations and did many of them herself. When her presentations took her to western Kansas or to Colorado she loved to spend an overnight with her family.

On the occasion of her 50th Jubilee she reflected, “For me this is a moment of facing the NOW at a deeper level of realization of how each of us has become who we are today because of our gifts … gifts that surfaced from our deepest center or gifts from one another and from all of creation.”

Margaret also maintained a close relationship with her family over the generations participating in and planning many family reunions and celebrations and being of help and support whenever someone needed her. Margaret was very close to her nieces and nephews. In these past years she has been a pivotal point for her nieces, who have loved to come here to Concordia from their various home bases to dote over and stimulate Margaret … and to find time to nourish their own relationships with one another. The sisters here in Concordia have also benefited from the joy and fun they bring.

Even as a resident at Mount Joseph, Margaret’s eyes have sparkled with zeal and acceptance. She has exemplified for me and many others the portrait of a Sister of St Joseph: “in her face the reflection proper to our Congregation — continual joy of spirit.  This is the quiet inner glow of the Sister whose life in the service of Jesus has been successful.”

Memorials for Sister Margaret Rourke may be given to the Sisters of St. Joseph Health Care/Retirement Fund or the Apostolic Works of the Sisters; P.O. Box 279, Concordia KS 66901. To make an online donation in Sister Margaret Rourke’s memory, click on the button below:

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