Celebrating a golden milestone

Margaret Keane SGS (Photo: Anthony Brady/The Moyne Gazette)

This year marks a significant milestone for Good Samaritan Sister, Margaret Keane. It’s the fiftieth anniversary of her profession as a religious sister.

BY Stephanie Thomas*

This year marks a significant milestone for Good Samaritan Sister, Margaret Keane. It’s the fiftieth anniversary of her profession as a religious sister. And as Margaret looks back on those 50 years, it’s her time as a teacher and principal that loom large in our conversation. She recalls with great affection the many people and places encountered along the way.

“I think I liked every place I taught in,” she remarks.

Margaret’s first teaching placement was at St Joseph’s, Nambour in Queensland. It was 1963, and fresh out of the Good Samaritan novitiate and teacher-training college in Sydney, the 20-year old Sister Margaret launched into teaching grade three.

“I was just hopeless!” admits Margaret.

“I liked it up there, although I found teaching very difficult because we didn’t have much training at all; [just] one year.”

Margaret’s time at Nambour was cut short because of a bout of rheumatic fever, an illness she’d also had as a 14-year old. So at the end of her first year, Margaret was transferred back to Sydney where she moved into secondary teaching at Rosebank College, Five Dock. She says she enjoyed it there, but continued to find teaching “hard”.

It wasn’t until her next placement at Mater Maria, Warriewood, a new junior secondary school for girls in Sydney’s northern suburbs, that Margaret became more confident in the classroom.

“I learnt to teach there, I think, because it was so small,” she explains.

“I went there for six years… It was fantastic, just the intimacy of it. And they were lovely parents and lovely students and teachers.”

From Mater Maria, Margaret went to Queanbeyan in 1970, where at age 28 she was appointed principal of St Gregory’s a junior secondary co-educational school. She recalls an experience during those years that revealed her compassion and readiness to take risks.

“I had a girl in year 10 who became pregnant and her parents were distraught. She was school captain. So they said to me, ‘When do you want her to leave?’ I said, ‘What does she have to leave for? She doesn’t have to leave until the baby’s due’.

“So I kept her on amid some criticism of some very holy people in town,” she explains.

Margaret proudly relates how the young girl successfully completed her year 10 certificate and was farewelled by her fellow students with a baby-shower in class.

“I got a couple of letters from parents about [the baby-shower]!” laughs Margaret.

But there’s more to this story that Margaret is pleased to tell. After no doubt much deliberation, the girl’s parents decided the baby would be adopted.

“The happy part of that is,” says Margaret, “some years later [the girl] met up with the father and they got the baby back. Now they’ve got two or three children.”

A few years ago Margaret had the opportunity to meet up with the family again.

“I like that story,” she adds.

In 1972 Margaret returned to Sydney as principal of St Brigid’s Marrickville. She served there for three years before heading to Ayr in North Queensland where she held a leadership role at Burdekin Catholic High, a newly established secondary school run by the Marist Brothers and Good Samaritan Sisters.

An eight-year posting as head of the junior school at St Monica’s Epping in Melbourne followed, before she was appointed principal of Mater Christi College, Belgrave from 1987 until 2001. Margaret has very fond memories of Mater Christi and says she only left because of her election as a member of the council of her congregation.

While her new full-time ministry meant a move back to Sydney, it didn’t mean a complete move away from school life. Margaret also served as a member of the Good Samaritan Education Council, a role she relished.

After six years on her congregation’s council, Margaret had a year-long sabbatical which included six months’ spiritual renewal at Marymount Mercy Centre in Sydney. This was her first break from full-time ministry since joining the Good Sams. Like many other sisters, her previous study opportunities (she has a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Theology) were completed part-time in addition to a full-time teaching load.

In 2008, Margaret was appointed manager of Mount St Benedict Centre in Sydney which offers faith formation opportunities for individuals and groups. Life seemed to be chugging along nicely for Margaret, but then one evening in mid-November 2010, without any warning, her world was thrown into chaos.

Earlier in the day Margaret had attended the profession of another Good Samaritan Sister. She’d also been out for a bike ride, something she did regularly. But after dinner, in conversation with some visiting sisters, she had a massive seizure.

“[There was] no sign. I wasn’t sick or anything,” explains Margaret. “I found out the next day in the hospital. They were very quick finding out what it was.”

Margaret was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

“I found myself in shock for most of the first three months, but in spite of two surgeries, not in great physical pain. Then the losses struck when the doctors were not certain what would happen next.”

Margaret thought she’d get back to normal after a course of radiotherapy, but normality didn’t follow. There were “oddities in scans”, she lost peripheral sight in both eyes and her mobility was seriously affected. The cause, according to the doctors, was a stroke.

As Margaret reflects on the last 15 tumultuous months “if only” has been a constant thought, and many times she has asked “what is ‘of God’ in this?”

Margaret is understandably frustrated by the impact of her illness. She is conscious of being dependent on her “wonderful community” and misses her ministry intensely. But Margaret feels like she is improving. Twice a week she visits a rehabilitation centre where she undergoes a rigorous regime of physiotherapy, occupational therapy, hydrotherapy and speech therapy.

“I’m working on being able to walk and not fall. I pray for trust (not easy) after 15 months of this burden (or gift) given to me,” she reflects.

In the meantime, Margaret is not allowing her illness to overtake any celebrations to mark her golden jubilee. In December last year she celebrated with other members of her congregation. “It was wonderful,” says Margaret.

Recently she returned from a holiday with family in her hometown of Koroit in Victoria. During that time there were also celebrations with family and friends to mark Margaret’s significant milestone.

“Time in Victoria was precious,” says Margaret.

“My family were so pleased to see me and to give me all the care anyone could want. A very special day was the golden jubilee celebration in the parish church where I grew up.”

With the year still young, the celebrations are bound to continue.

* Stephanie Thomas is editor of The Good Oil, the e-magazine of the Good Samaritan Sisters.

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The Good Oil, February 21, 2012. If you would like to republish this article, please contact the editor.

34 Responses to “Celebrating a golden milestone”

  1. Gerry Guiton says:

    Dear Margaret,

    Long time no see! belated congrats on your 50th. Wow. brilliant. I hope you’re getting better. Yr in my prayers,

    Gerry Guiton

  2. Joanne Smith(Doyle) says:

    I occassionally visit here to catch a glimpse of the wonderful people from St Brigids. I was sad to hear of your struggles but pray for you the strenghth you showed us as a very young leader ( only now do I realise how exactly remarkable you were for one I realise was soooo young)Thank you for wonderful memories and hi also to Miss Hughson . Joanne Doyle Year 10 1975 Nazareth vice captain xxx

  3. Mary Ghossein says:

    Congratulations Sr Margaret on celebrating your Golden Jubilee.
    Sincere wishes for a speedy recovery.
    St Brigids class of 1972 are preparing for 40th year reunion on 10 November 2012. A day to celebrate from we have come and where we are yet to go.
    We wish to extend our invitation to you and all fellow class mates of 1972 to join us in our day of celebration.

    God bless you always Sr Margaret.
    Mary Ghossein

  4. Felicity-Ann Fasola says:

    Dear Sr Margaret,

    I met you my first day at Mater Christi College and you welcomed me along with all these other new Year 7’s to the school, I always felt welcomed at.
    You always walk with a smile on your face and you never said no to a hello and a small chat no matter who it was.

    Congratulations on your Golden Jubilee. You’ve obviously touched many lives in your illustrious career and are very deserving in thanks.

    I wish you well and my prayers are with you.
    Thank you,

  5. Peter Hughes says:

    Congratulations on your 50th Jubilee Sr Margaret> I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for your inspirational leadership and reflections and pray for strength to your recovery. I know that as in everything you do it will be 120% effort. Know that you have the strong wishes and prayers of the Hugheses- Peter, Karen, Rebecca and Claire. Reading these Mater Christi tributes brings back strong ties of appreciation for your many years of dedicated hard work and the ways in which you have positively influenced the lives of so many. God bless Sr Margaret

  6. Dear Marg, such fond memories of teaching with you in Ayr. I wish you all the best and many years of health and happiness.

    • Theresa Schumacher says:

      Along with Jack and all the other congratulations to you, Marg, I wish you God’s best blessings as you walk such a challenging path day by day. I remember you with fondness from my time with you in 2009. You were part of the many blessings during that six weeks.
      Jubilee with abandon!
      Love and Peace.

  7. Jill McCorquodale says:

    The Queendom of Heaven is like a woman named Margaret, in love with life and people, who has, and continues to, set sparks alight wherever she is. I’ve seen that spark and felt its passion often! Thank you so much for all this, Marg!

  8. Dear Marg,
    Congratulations on your Jubilee! As I read through these beautiful comments I am struck by the incredible influence your life has had and continues to have on so many. I will never forget my time at Mater Christi in the early 90s as a young and “fresh” Good Sam. I have always been grateful for your capacity to stay connected with me over the years. Your generosity of spirit, honesty and authenticity are qualities I treasure…your leadership at Mater and in community was inspirational and I still draw upon the lessons I learned both working and living with you.
    Love always,

  9. Frances O'Neill says:

    Dear Margaret,
    It seems just yesterday that we were at Marrickville to gether, with dear Barbara. My first teaching job and you, as the new Principal, rang me to welcome me to the St Brigids. I have been so blessed to have you a part of my life and for you to have had such an influence on me, both professionally and personally. After being overseas for 12 years (remember meeting at the airport in Osaka?) I am back in Sydney, again in education. Thank you for all that you have given and I know God’s blessings are with you. Love Fran O’Neill(Hughson)

  10. Laurie Baker says:

    Congratulations to the most amazing woman I have ever had the pleasure of working with and knowing personally. I will never forget the “three fingers pointing back at yourself” and on behalf of my family, not the least your past students Penny and Mandy we wish you continued improvement with your health. Your amazing life is one I am so humble to have had a tiny part therein. Love always Marg, Laurie, Cheryl, Penny, Mandy, Jessie and Kate Baker

  11. Andy Donnelly says:

    Dear Marg, what an amazing achievement.
    I have wonderful memories of your inspiring reflections in Briefings and Assemblies. Hope you can draw on your own words of wisdom and faith, to get you through the challenges of your health. love Andy. x

  12. Denise Simmons says:

    Dear Sr. Marg,
    A golden congratulations. Wonderful memories of an inspirational principal, a great story teller and a killer on the netball court! Best wishes, Denise.

  13. Tim Crowe says:

    Congratulations Marg. 50 years of learning, sharing and inspiring! The students would say “awesome” and I agree.

  14. Yvonne Sanders says:

    Hello Marg… congratulations on this fantabulous milestone! A wonderful achievement indeed. I remember leaving Mater Christi with great reservations at the end of 1991 after a couple of years under your leadership… I loved it so much I came back!! Good times. Keeping you in my thoughts & prayers.

  15. Marg, thanks for the sharing. I liked particularly the “what is of God?” bit. It felt very authentic. Love and prayers. Marie O’Connor.

  16. Anna Smit says:

    Hello Margaret
    Congratulations on your Golden Jubilee. May you grow stronger every day in your physio and wellbeing. God Bless and thank you for the memories at the Epping Convent & St Monica’s xx

  17. Gayle Donald says:

    Hi Marg,
    Congrats and enjoy every minute of this ‘golden year’ which you so richly deserve. The depth of your inspiration and the amount of souls it has touched is immeasurable. To work with you was a joy, to know you and share many precious moments in life is a cherished privilige. Good luck with the health battle, I have every confidence that as with everything you do you will give it your best efforts and they are always ‘first class’.
    Always in our prayers, Gayle, Graham and family.

  18. John Hawley says:

    Margaret, What a story!!! What’s more, I reckon there’s still lots of chapters as yet unwritten. Congratulations on such a wonderful milestone. You have been an absolute inspiration to so many of us in so many different ways. Your sheer basic and uncomplicated humanity has been an absolute delight to share. It was wonderful to see the recent strides you have made – hang in there.

  19. Frank Pitt says:

    Congratulations Margaret, You have been a wonderful model of faith and compassion and a loving and wise friend to many of us in education. The St Mary’s community wishes you a happy and healthy jubilee year.
    Love and best wishes. Frank

  20. Helen Smith says:

    Dear Marg,
    Congratulations indeed. You introduced me to St Benedict. A treasured gift! You showed me how to lead with love, even when it was hard. A treasured wisdom. You lived the message of strength in humility. A treasured lesson. So at this special time, thank you for being a treasured friend.

  21. Amanda Bischof-Foster says:

    Dear Sister Margaret,
    Congratulations. I have fond inspiring memories of being taught by you while in Year 12 at Mater Christi. I have enjoyed teaching at Mater for the last seven years and also a proud recipient of the Sister Margaret Keane Scholarship. God bless Amanda

  22. Tonia says:

    Dear Margaret, your stoic honesty, faith and humilty [qualities which as a young impressionable student at Rosebank in the late 60’s I recognised] continue to inspire me even after all these years. I consider myself honoured and priviliged to know you.
    Much love Tonia

  23. Katrina Trost says:

    Congratulations Marg on a remarkable milestone! I think of you often as I walk around this beautiful environment at Mater Christi. Like Judy, I will always remember the influence and inspiration you imbued in me and in our students. My prayers are with you in your fight to regain your health. Love from Katrina.

  24. Patriica Purcell says:

    Sr Margaret,
    Congratulations on this great mile stone. I have enjoyed working with you as a Member, your generosity in sharing your great knowledge. I wish you continuing improvement of your health.

  25. Libby O'Meara says:

    Dear Sr Marg, well done on reaching 50 years. What a marvellous achievement. Thank you for your inspiration, warmth and leadership to me. May God grant you health, peace and happiness. With love from Libby.

  26. Congratulations Margaret from Mater Christi College community, where we continue to enjoy many fond memories and celebrate the fruits of your significant period of leadership of the College.
    We send our love, blessings and prayers
    Mary Fitz-Gerald, Principal, Mater Christi College, Belgrave

  27. Judy Lawson says:

    Dear Sister Marg,
    Congratulations on a wonderful achievement. Thank you for the profound influence you have had on both my daughter’s and my lives. We were both very proud to receive the Sister Margaret Keane Scholarship, which provided us with the wonderful opportunity to travel and gain an appreciation of this global community in which we live. Thank God for your presence and influence in our lives. Take care,
    Judy and Jacquie Lawson

  28. Marilyn Maxwell says:

    Congratulations !
    Your welcoming presence at Mt St Benedict Centre is etched within me, returning each time I visit the Centre. You continue to be an encouragement to me, thank you.
    God bless as you continue your journey.
    Marilyn M.

  29. John Flemming says:

    Hi Marg.,
    Congratulations on such a milestone. When you consider the influence that you have had on so many young and not so young lives you can feel very satisfied. I don’t need to tell you of what we at Mater Christi think of you Enjoy the occasion and keep battling. John F.

  30. Kay Herse says:

    Congratulations Marg on 50 years of great contribution to so many young lives. I have appreciated our conversations over the years on all things educational and the rest!

  31. The Wilson mob says:

    Hi Margaret, A wonderful story of you and your special time with the Good Sams. Congratulations and every good wish for your “coming good” again soon. Lots of love and blessings,
    John & Irene & Angela & Pippa & Erin & Eliza.

  32. Margherita Magagna says:

    Dear Sr Margaret
    Congratulations on celebrating your Golden Jubilee! May the celebrations help you in your to better health. Thank you for making such a positive impact on my life. God bless, Margherita.

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