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Sister Margaret Michael, SNDdeN (formerly Aimee Julie)

January 12, 2016

July 11, 1915 – January 11, 2016

Margaret Elizabeth Michael was proud of her rural roots in Gallipolis, Ohio. While her family spent many years in Columbus, Ohio, it was time spent at her maternal grandparents’ farm in Gallipolis that she often talked about. It was clear that the roots of her love of nature and gardening, her ease of finding God in the beauty of creation were nourished through her visits to Gallipolis. Margaret’s father was an electrician and moved to Dayton to find work during the Great Depression. Margaret’s mother worked as a cook for the Berry family on East North Broadway. Her position allowed her and her children to live in the Berry home and enabled Mrs. Michael to keep Margaret and her younger sister in school in Columbus. In spite difficulty of the times, Margaret was able to attend St. Joseph’s Academy where she met and grew to love the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.

Drawn by the example of their simplicity and compassion for people trapped in poverty, Margaret entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur after completing high school and became known as Sister Aimee Julie. She began a thirty-three year teaching career as soon as she professed vows. During those years she served in schools in Illinois, Ohio and even one year in Maryland. Sister taught every grade from first through eighth, and she especially loved her experiences in the inner city schools. In 1940 she was assigned to the Sixth Street Community to teach first and second grade at St. Xavier School in downtown Cincinnati. Sixth Street was the first house of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in the United States, and Sister arrived in time to celebrate the Centennials of the arrival of the Sisters, opening of the house and opening of the first Notre Dame schools in the United States. She spent the next five years at Sixth Street and loved to tell of her experiences there. Margaret was one of the “young” Sisters in the house when it was closed in 1945, and she was the last living Sister who experienced life in the “Cradle of the Institute in the United States.” Sisters will be forever grateful for her willingness to be interviewed about her experiences and for her efforts to commit to paper her memories of Sixth Street.

In the early 1960’s Sister Margaret wrote about her desire to serve: “I have always had a desire to go to Africa, but never voiced it since this was out of our jurisdiction. I volunteered for the missions when I was young, but Sister Teresa of the Passion said my health would not permit it. The age limit regarding South America did not give me a chance to apply. The Indians and Negro races have always held my interest. I would like to be of help to them both in body and in soul.”

As the 1960’s came to an end, Sister Margaret saw two needs and began to think of a way to meet both of them. On the one hand she saw students in classrooms of every school needing extra help to succeed. On the other hand she saw older Sisters who no longer had the energy for full-time classroom ministry yet yearned to continue to teach students the skills necessary for a successful life. Sister Margaret received permission to open the Billiart Reading Center at Mount Notre Dame and thus began a twenty-four year ministry of matching the expertise of skilled Sisters with the needs of children struggling in the classroom to provide year round opportunities for private instruction in the language arts and math.

The motto for the Reading Center was “We teach the Student – not the Book.” The motto reflected how deeply Sister Margaret took to heart Saint Julie Billiart’s belief in the need to focus on each individual student. In Sister Margaret’s letter to parents announcing the closing of the Reading Center in 1994 she wrote:

“Since its inception the Billiart Reading Center has provided the ministry of forty-one retired Sister-teachers to over 1,000 children. All individuals in both groups benefitted from the one-on-one learning relationships that existed. Now, however, the increasing age and frailty of those available for instruction indicates that the time has come to terminate offering this arrangement.

“We thank you for your support over the years and assure you of the continued relationship through prayerful remembrances. Billiart Reading Center will be the happy memory of a place where children were reverenced and assisted in areas of learning difficulties and retired Sisters loved the hours of being with them, directing their growth.”

In community Sister Margaret was known for her bright smile. Sometimes seeming gruff in her interactions, she was generous with her time running errands for other Sisters and driving Sisters where they needed to go. Sister Margaret started a vegetable garden at Mount Notre Dame in 1980 and took great pleasure in the work of the garden and bringing the produce to the kitchen. She kept Sisters company in nightly viewings of Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, both of which she described as “brain stimulants.” Her hands would be busy with needlework as her brain solved the puzzles and answered the questions. She loved all kinds of craftwork which she felt kept her mentally and physically active. She was known for creating entire Christmas villages that then became prizes at the annual Christmas Bazaar.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 was one of Sister Margaret’s favorite Scripture passages: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven; a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted.” It is time now to celebrate her more than 100 years of making known God’s goodness in all seasons. We rejoice with her as she is “plucked up” from among us and enjoys being reunited with so many Sisters and friends in Heaven. We thank God for the gift she has been to her Sisters, family, friends, students and co-workers. With her we proclaim, “Oh, how good is the good God!”

Bio Data
Born July 11, 1915 at Gallipolis, Ohio
Parents: Robert Michael (born in Dayton, Ohio) and Amy McHale (born in Gallipolis, Ohio)

Baptized on March 17, 1916 at St. Louis Church, Gallipolis, Ohio
Confirmed on May 8, 1927 at the Immaculate Conception Church, Columbus, Ohio

Entered September 30, 1934
First Profession: August 13, 1937
Final Profession: August 13, 1943

Immaculate Conception School, Columbus, Ohio
St. Joseph Academy, Columbus, Ohio
Bachelor of Science in Education, University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio, 1958
Master of Arts in Reading, Cardinal Stritch College, Milwaukee, Illinois 1971

Assignments Included:
1937-1940 St. Victor School, Calumet City, Illinois
1940-1941 St. Xavier School, Cincinnati, Ohio
1941-1943 St. Henry School, Cincinnati, Ohio
1943-1944 St. Paul School, Cincinnati, Ohio
1944-1946 St. Augustine School, Cincinnati, Ohio
1946-1948 St. Veronica School, Hamilton, Ohio
1948-1949 St. Robert Bellarmine School, Chicago, Illinois
1949-1950 St. James School, Wyoming, Ohio
1950-1951 Holy Angels School, Dayton, Ohio
1952-1953 Holy Family School, Dayton, Ohio
1953-1956 St. Agnes School, Dayton, Ohio
1956-1957 St. Aloysius School, Columbus, Ohio
1957-1962 St. Alexander School, Villa Park, Illinois
1962-1963 Holy Family School, Dayton, Ohio
1963-1964 St. Jerome School, Hyattsville, Maryland
1964-1970 St. Augustine School, Columbus, Ohio
1970-1994 Billiart Reading Center, Reading, Ohio
1994-Present Mount Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio

Died at Mount Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio on January 11, 2016

Sr. Kim Dalgarn SNDdeN
January 11, 2016

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