Eulogy for Sister Margaret Schreck: Oct. 18, 1931-Nov. 12, 2016

November 15, 2016 by

VIGIL: Nov. 15, 2016, at Nazareth Motherhouse
EULOGIST:  Sister Janet Lander

Be a person of such greatness that what is not God will be nothing, and embrace gently and eagerly great apostolic undertakings when the Holy Spirit urges you to this; but according to this same maxim, whatever you do or suffer, let your heart find it a trifle, as indeed it is, in comparison with the grandeur of God and the worth of God’s  sovereign perfection.

— Maxim 91

Sister Margaret Schreck

Sister Margaret Schreck

Sister Margaret Schreck would have received this Maxim in her birthday card from the Congregation had she lived to 91, but as her life reveals, she already was living it in in so many ways.

Margaret Mary Schreck was born Oct. 18, 1931, to Henry and Ada (Fonke) Schreck in Marienthal, Kan., the youngest of eight children. She is preceded in death by her parents as well as all her siblings: Frank, Victor, Agnes, Adalia (Dale) Morin, Mildred, Joseph (also called Father Antonio) and John. In her life review she shares that she did not remember her father who died when she was 2. It must be a joy to her that she can now get to know him, and be reunited with her family.

Indeed, family was always very important to Margaret. Many times over the last dozen years I was regaled with loving family anecdotes. Margaret had a special relationship not just with her siblings, but with their children and their families. She knew herself as beloved by her family and saw herself in ministry to them. In our community, we say, “Our ministry is our presence.” And this presence is not limited to a face-to-face presence. I know that Margaret communicated faithfully in writing and by phone when distance necessitated it. And our faith tells us that Margaret’s ministry of presence is now perfected, unconstrained by the limitations of this life. Yes, Margaret is with us now.

Margaret grew up on a farm, and attended parochial school in Marienthal and public high school in Leoti, Kan. From there, with the help of a scholarship supplemented by the generosity of one of her sisters, she went to Marymount College. She graduated in 1953 with a bachelor’s degree in Home Economics. Though she already sensed her call to be a Sister of St. Joseph, she first taught home economics for two years in Victoria High School to pay her sister back.

Margaret entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on Sept. 9, 1955, and was received into the novitiate on March 19, 1956, receiving the name, Sister Marguerite Cecile. Her only surviving band member is Sister Mary Fran Simons. Margaret made first vows on March 19, 1957, and final vows on March 19, 1960. Her first mission was teaching at Central High School in Grand Island, Neb., for nine years. At the end of this period, she received her master’s degree in Clothing and Textiles from Kansas State University, and was assigned to teach at Sacred Heart High School in Salina.

According to her life review, this was a difficult assignment, but within it she began to sense urging of the Spirit, a call beginning the next phase of her ministry, social work and adult education. In the early 1970s she went to Junction City, Kan., as an English-as-a-second-language teacher for immigrants, mostly the wives of servicemen, and then continued this work in Manhattan, Kan. The Register, the newspaper of the Salina Diocese, featured an article on April 30, 1976, about her ministry, describing her as “a friend, confidante, interpreter and intermediary.”

In 1982, Margaret went to a refugee resettlement program in Lawton, Okla. She recounts, “Again with the help of the Holy Spirit I was enabled to find materials and methods to effectively teach the rudiments of the language.”

After a year studying Spanish in San Antonio, Texas, Margaret spent a year volunteering in Tunica, Miss. At Sacred Heart Southern Mission, operated by the Sacred Heart priests, she was a social service minister, assisting the elderly poor.

From there she went to Yarnell, Ariz., again teaching ESL, in a school for young adult orphans from Mexico, Haiti and Honduras. She remembers these four years as happy ones. Reflecting on her years of ministry with immigrants she wrote,

“I attempt to alleviate the cause of ignorance, poverty, oppression and injustice. Since I firmly believe in the adage: ‘Give a person a fish and you feed him for a day, but teach a person to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,’ I am convinced that by helping foreign-born wives and refugees to communicate in English, I am enabling them to find employment. Education contributes to their psychological and physical wellbeing in a culture much different from the one they have left. Education can also be their defense against oppression and injustice by unscrupulous people who would try to exploit them… My life, my Journey, seems to be a leaven for reconciliation in the world. By showing love for the suffering people from many distant countries, I can help heal their hurts. By contributing to a loving atmosphere, I can help these refugees forgive those who have wrong them even though the wrongdoers are thousands of miles away…”

In 1992, she worked at Morris School for Boys, run by Franciscan Brothers, in Searcy, Ark., but for health reasons Margaret returned to the Motherhouse in 1993, where she served as a tour guide for the next 20 years.

She saw her tours as a ministry of hospitality and education, as well as evangelization through the beauty of the Motherhouse. A person who took one of these tours recounted, “Your tour of the Motherhouse and the depth of your faith was by far the most rewarding thing I had done during my time in Concordia.” (Register, Jan. 11, 2002)

Her Motherhouse ministry extended also to the Sisters with whom she lived, offering the gift of presence though participation in liturgical roles, helping in the dining room, telling jokes, playing Scrabble by cooperative rules, complimenting and encouraging others, and conscientiously reading and watching news to have topics for conversation as well as for prayer. She desired to do all she could for others, even as her health declined. More than once I heard her say, “I will do as much as I can, as long as I can, to live out my vocation as a Sister of St. Joseph.”

It was during these years that I came to know Margaret, serving as her spiritual director. I will remember her for her dry wit and her down-to-earth spirituality. She put love into action in ways that were both humble and practical, helping others to see their God-given goodness. I was often touched by her sensitivity to the suffering of others. Compassion is often most vivid in those who know the meaning of suffering themselves.

In 2013, Margaret moved to Mount Joseph Senior Village in Concordia. This was a time of suffering from illness for her. In her most recent mission statement (2016-17) she simply states: “My ministry will be uniting my suffering with those of Christ for the redemption of all. I will share gifts of humor and attentive listening with all whose lives I touch.” Yet, Margaret continued her ministry of presence at Mount Joseph, collecting and sharing jokes and human interest stories. She was a woman for others, apostolic to the soles of her feet, and continued to minister especially to Mount Joseph employees who needed a listening heart and quality conversations.

Even when spiritual direction really did not seem necessary anymore, I continued to visit Margaret and be edified by her courage and surprised by her creativity. The largest surprise came the day when she shared with me a box of her artwork that she had kept all her adult life.

At the end of her life review, Margaret says, “I do not know what the future holds, but I do know Who holds the future.” On Nov. 12, God called Margaret home. Though we will miss you, Margaret, we have every reason to believe that you are indeed home, being held in the heart of God.


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Memorials for Sister Margaret Schreck 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’s memory, click on the button below:



2 Responses to “Eulogy for Sister Margaret Schreck: Oct. 18, 1931-Nov. 12, 2016”

  1. Mary Fran Simons on November 23rd, 2016 11:53 am

    Thank you, Janet. I loved the way you touch into the spirit of Margaret and expressed it so beautifully. I know my dear friend and band member is fulfilled in the love of God whom she knew so well in her time with us on earth.

  2. Missy Ljungdahl on November 15th, 2016 8:41 pm

    Thanks for a wonderful tribute to a wonderful woman. You captured our dear Margaret in a great way.

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