Margaret Ann White was the oldest in a family of four children. She was born in Innisfail on June 14, 1921, the only daughter of Annie Marie (née Fox) and Frederick White. She would soon be followed by three brothers.
Margaret’s family moved from Innisfail to a sugar cane farm in Gordonvale. Here Margaret began her education with the Sisters of Mercy, later completing her secondary education at Mt St Bernard’s School in Herberton.
Margaret had a strong sense of family and enriched community life with the culinary and sewing talents she developed with the encouragement of her mother.
After leaving school Margaret travelled to Innisfail where she stayed with the Good Samaritan Sisters for some weeks before entering the Good Samaritan Novitiate at Pennant Hills on July 1, 1939. She was given the religious name of Sister Mary Michael and made her first profession of vows on January 6, 1942.
Margaret was a gifted and talented musician and many a youngster was encouraged to develop their musical talents during her ministry as a music teacher in schools in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and Queensland from 1942 to 1966.
This was followed by a complete change of direction when Margaret was appointed vocation promoter for the congregation and spent 11 years travelling around communities supporting young women in the discernment of a vocation to religious life as a Sister of the Good Samaritan.
Margaret’s next appointment was to Balgowlah community where she ministered offering hospitality in the House of Prayer. From there she moved to Gayndah where she spent six years working in parish ministry. It was here that the seeds for her ministry as chaplain to prisoners were sown.
Margaret began this ministry in 1987 visiting prisoners in Boggo Road Jail, and later in the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre. Inmates of the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre and Boggo Road Jail referred to Sister Margaret variously as a “Mother Teresa” or a “Florence Nightingale”, but the title she liked most of all was “the undercover nun”, a reference to the fact that many of them had not seen a nun in contemporary dress.
Margaret ministered to the inmates of these institutions with a non-judgmental and pastoral heart. This was her last major ministry in a fruitful life. Her strong sense of justice led her to serve not only those in prison, but also their families. Her 18 years in this ministry were gratefully acknowledged by her peers at the time of her retirement. She was acclaimed for her “unfussy, faith-filled, sterling chaplaincy to offenders, young and old”.
After a period of some three and a half years spent at Lourdes Hill Convent, in 2009 Margaret moved to Marycrest Hostel, Kangaroo Point. It was here that she died peacefully during the morning of January 13, 2014.
While all Margaret’s immediate family have died, she is remembered with love and affection by her extended family, by her Good Samaritan Sisters and by those with whom and to whom she ministered during her faithful life of service.