Ireland - Margaret’s Award

The Little Sisters have had a community in Bohermore in Galway for 37 years. It is a housing estate on the outskirts of Galway city, with a large population, many of whom were impoverished in education, in home-making skills, and in social skills; a population that suffered a lot of exclusion and marginal-isation. In many cases, they were people ‘without voice or influence in this world’. RL9.

Many sisters have had the joy of working there over the years, and they enjoyed a welcome from the people and a proximity to the people in the daily round of living and struggle that was exceptional. Through the work of the sisters over the years, and with the collaboration of the local authorities, who gave various grants to support the work, we had the joy of seeing people being empowered to take charge of their own lives, in some cases to become the leaders in the various projects that we established, including pre-school groups, after school programmes, youth work, young adults groups etc. 
 
Sister Margaret Mc Fadden has been here for 17 years. Over those years, the Little Sisters community of which Margaret was a part, gradually diminished, through ageing, ill health, and the call to serve in other overseas missions. So Margaret is the one who keeps the flame burning there on behalf of the congregation, working with groups and individuals. 
 
The women who are now in the young adult group were formerly in the after-school groups and are still very close to Margaret; they greatly appreciate the part she played in their growth. In time they set up their own families and they are confident young mothers, grateful for the help over the years, and especially grateful to Margaret who had believed in them and supported them. It was this group of young women that decided to nominate Margaret for an award in recognition of all they had received from her presence and her care through the years. 
 
The following is their submission to the Rehabilitation Group, which makes the award: 
“We, the Monday Night Ladies group”, would like to nominate our local community Sister, Sr. Margaret McFadden. Sister is one of the Little Sisters of the Assumption, a religious Congregation that celebrated the 150th anniversary of their foundation; we had the great privilege of celebrating with Sister Margaret. …. 
We first met Sister Margaret 17 years ago when we were 14 years old. At that time there was nothing for us to do after school, or nowhere for us to hang out. Sister Margaret approached us and asked us if would we be interested in setting up a club for our age group. We were delighted, the club got up and running and we would meet once a week in the Bohermore Community Centre. She organised for us to get help with our school subjects, to prepare for our exams; she brought us on day outings, and we did photography, makeovers and arts and crafts. She also brought us to Belfast, to Unity Flats, where she had spent many years, as a sister in the community there, offering help to families with small children, the elderly and the sick.. At that time Sr Margaret would have been offering help and advice, and also making a difference by enriching the lives of others, particularly those who were vulnerable or less able to help themselves in those troubled times in the North. Sister Margaret financed all these activities herself, which shows how generous and resourceful she can be, putting the needs of others before her own, providing a selfless voluntary service to all. As the years went by, our club grew from strength to strength. Sr. Margaret was there to see us as teenagers, and growing up to become young mothers and to have families of our own.
 
In Spring of 2013, the Monday Night Ladies Group was set up. The group gives young women the space to support each other and enjoy each others’ company. Sr. Margaret is also invaluable in this group where she organises various activities; among these are painting, arts and crafts, candle-making, knitting and sewing. She would give up her spare time to teach us how to knit and sew. If our projects ran over time, she would accommodate us in her house, and help us to finish them, as well as making endless cups of tea and little treats to keep us going. We knitted cribs for Christmas and on Christmas Eve night Margaret went around delivering all the cribs to each person, having put the finishing touches to them herself. She even went that extra mile by adding straw for the Baby Jesus! 
For Easter time, we also knitted lovely little chickens, and Sr Margaret again committed herself to doing this, and after we had finished she had them all nicely presented with a crème egg inside each of them, and a little ribbon around each one! 
 
Margaret also helps the elderly and the senior citizens of the community; she visits them when they are sick and brings them to appointments when needed. She touches and enriches the lives of others. She helps out in our local play school whenever she can. On St Patrick’s Day, she surprised all the kids by dressing up as St. Patrick and leading the kids around the streets in a parade. She is an inspiration to many in the community and is much loved, she is dedicated and passionate in everything she does. 
On Tuesday night she does arts and crafts with the Bohermore Ladies Club, which is a group with 15 members, some of whom passed away recently. She does sewing and knitting with them. They made little thatched cottages, which took a lot of patience and hard work.
 
She was also a Project leader in our local after-school work for charity events and fund-raising for the community. She’s always the first to give her time and ideas. For fund raising for the refurbishment she took beautiful photographs of everyone, black and white and coloured, had them all developed herself and delivered all of them by hand afterwards. They now all have pride of place in everyone’s sitting room, on the mantel-piece. She is so enthusiastic, passionate and supportive, always going over and above in everything she does, she really is an inspirational person. She is a hidden heroine, and a role model for all who meet her and for this she deserves some recognition and thanks for making a real difference in our lives and the lives of others in the community. Sister Margaret is a true star, and always will be our star!” 
(Written by the Bohermore Monday Night Ladies Group)
 
This award is organised by Rehab Ireland, and once a year they accept nominations for the award, called ‘People of the Year Awards’ in Galway. The idea of the awards is to highlight and applaud the efforts made by groups and individuals who contribute to the well being of their local communities. There were nominations for groups of people and for individuals, a total of 12 were successful, and Margaret was among the 12. 
 
The awards were presented in a local hotel, and each recipient was given a brief moment, in an interview by a broadcast journalist, to express how they felt about the award … and Margaret, true to form, expressed her thanks for the privilege it was to be amongst such wonderful people in the Bohermore community.
 
It was a great joy for us as Little Sisters, who witnessed how article 19 of our Rule of Life, took flesh in Margaret’s life, and for Margaret’s family, who were there in strength, and for her friends to see the appreciation in which she was held. The presentation was followed by a banquet, and by some music and dancing. There was a big contingent from Bohermore, who had saved up for the event, and who looked great in all their style, in fact Margaret had the biggest fan club on the night !! There was a small group of travellers, who for various reasons couldn’t come on the night, so they took Margaret out for a meal themselves a few days later.  

Sister Catherine
14/06/2016
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