November 22, 1922 – February 6, 2016
Mary Catherine, the oldest of John and Marguerite McHugh's six children, grew up in Nativity Parish, just down the road from Mount Notre Dame. Her aunt, Sister Sarah Marie, lived at Mount Notre Dame when Mary Catherine was very little. Perhaps it was a family visit that gave Mr. and Mrs. McHugh the idea of placing Mary Catherine in the boarding school at Mount Notre Dame when she turned five. Years later she would tell the story, "All I did was cry! There was a Sister Lucy who would rock me and another little girl for hours." Mary Catherine was still crying at the end of the week when her parents came to take her home.
Mary Catherine loved music and loved to sing. At age sixteen she won a contest on an amateur hour by singing When I Wish Upon a Star. Mary Catherine was so encouraged by her music teachers that she actually considered training to be an opera singer. She later said, “The idea of going to the Metropolitan Opera thrilled me.” Instead, she followed the example of a cousin, dropped out of school and started working as a beautician in 1937.
When the United States became involved in the Second World War, Mary Catherine followed her two brothers into the Armed Forces. She joined the WAVES in 1942. Mary Catherine later said, “I thought maybe we’d win the war faster if I got in.” She was assigned as a gunnery instructor at the U.S. Naval Station in Norfolk, Virginia where she taught Marines and sailors how to fire the big guns on the ships. Mary Catherine remembered, “A lot of them had a hard time listening to a woman at first. Then, they would go out and lose a few men; and when they came back, they’d pay a bit more attention.”
After the war Mary Catherine returned to her work as a beautician. In 1947 she became a long distance telephone operator. Outside of work she became active with the Catholic War Veterans and served as their recording secretary from 1946-1951. Mary Catherine joined the Legion of Mary and became a Third Order Franciscan to nurture her faith. As a Legionnaire she regularly visited the blind, and as a Franciscan she was involved in other volunteer service to people in need. However, something still seemed to be missing from Mary Catherine's life. During a visit Sister Sarah Marie asked her when she would be joining the Sisters of Notre Dame. That question crystallized for Mary Catherine what was missing: it was time to respond to God's call to religious life.
At the age of 33 she entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and became known as Sister Marguerite Michael. Her only regret was that she had not entered sooner. Growing up the oldest of six meant she brought natural nurturing skills with her to the community. Sister Marguerite loved nurturing Kindergarten, First and Second grade students. It brought her great joy to watch them develop new skills and sometimes excel beyond everyone's expectations.
Marguerite’s life-long commitment to people trapped in poverty and social justice issues became the central focus of her ministry after the Second Vatican Council. With other Sisters of Notre Dame she became involved in parish and social ministries. Her role models for working with the poor were St. Martin de Porres, to whom she had a special devotion, and St. Julie, foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Marguerite felt that Julie’s concern for the poor was part of what made her a “modern day saint.”
While serving at St. Aloysius Parish in Columbus, Marguerite also served as Vice President of the Holton Park Recreation Center Advisory Council, co-chairman of the Bishop’s West Side Pastoral Committee, a core member of the Volunteer Program of the South West Community Health Center and a core member of the Hunger Task Force. Parishioners wrote of the power of her example: "Sr. Marguerite has given her time and her talent to those people who had been neglected for such a long time – the sick, the elderly and the shut-ins. She has made the rest of us aware of these people and their needs, their concerns and their importance to the worshipping community. She has shown us these people can give us so much more than we can possibly give them."
Marguerite’s deep respect for the dignity of each person and her gentle, listening way of being present were so effective in ministry that she went back to school and studied to become a licensed social worker. Her work with Catholic Social Services and the St. Vincent De Paul Society put her in touch with those most in need of a gentle listener. She tutored at the Hamilton County Justice center to help inmates earn their GEDs. She helped staff a suicide prevention hotline for five years and even in her last years she helped others when she could through Volunteer Resources.
After the Second Vatican Council Marguerite also renewed her involvement with Veteran’s organizations. She held the post of volunteer coordinator at the Veterans Administration Voluntary Services of Ohio American Legion’s Fourth District and gave in excess of 10,000 volunteer hours at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center in a variety of programs. Marguerite held the post of commander of American Legion Post #644 for 12 years and continued to serve as chaplain until her death. She looked forward to the annual Veterans’ Day parades and served as Grand Marshall for some of them. In 2012 Marguerite was inducted into the Ohio Veteran’s Hall of Fame.
In community Marguerite was known for her humor, her dry wit and her simplicity in dealing with life. She remained an opera enthusiast, loved reading a good book, listening to music, rock collecting and just talking to people. Marguerite loved spending time with her family and especially enjoyed outing and trips she took with her sister, Margie and nieces and nephews.
In 1996 Marguerite started volunteering in the Baby Cuddle Program at Good Samaritan Hospital. She continued this ministry until shortly before her death. Perhaps it was the memory of Sr. Lucy rocking her for hours when she most needed a loving touch that motivated Marguerite to spend hours rocking newborns in need of a similar loving touch. Confident that Marguerite is now united more fully with our good God, her Sisters, family, friends and brother and sister veterans give thanks for the gift her life has been to each of us. We ask her continued prayers for us as we rejoice in all the goodness God has worked through the gift of her life.
Born November 26, 1922 in Cincinnati, Ohio
Parents: John M. McHugh (born in Cincinnati, Ohio) and Marguerite C. Schulte (born in Norwood, Ohio)
Siblings: Marie, John, Patrick, Sally, Marguerite
Baptized December 8, 1922 at the Nativity of Our Lord Church, Cincinnati, Ohio
Confirmed October 16, 1932 at the Nativity of Our Lord Church, Cincinnati, Ohio
Entered September 8, 1954 at Mt. Notre Dame
First Profession: March 9, 1957
Final Profession: August 13, 1962
Bachelor of Arts in Human Services from Mt. St. Joseph College, Mt. St. Joseph, Ohio, 1980
1957-1958 St. Alexander School, Villa Park, Illinois
1958-1963 St. Robert Bellarmine School, Chicago, Illinois,
1963-1964 St. Augustine School, Cincinnati, Ohio
1964-1965 Most Holy Trinity School, Phoenix, Arizona
1965-1965 Summit Convent, Cincinnati, Ohio
1965-1967 Julienne Convent, Dayton, Ohio
1967-1968 St. Joseph School, Hamilton, Ohio
1968-1974 Adult Education, Millvale, Ohio
1974-1979 St. Aloysius School and Parish, Columbus, Ohio
1979-1980 Student, Mt. St. Joseph College, Mt. St. Joseph, Ohio
1980-1988 Catholic Social Service, Cincinnati, Ohio
1988-1989 Tri-County Day Care, Cincinnati, Ohio
1989-2001 Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Cincinnati, Ohio
1996-2014 Baby Cuddle Program/ St. Vincent De Paul at Good Samaritan Hospital, Cincinnati, Ohio
2011-2014 Volunteer Resources, Cincinnati, Ohio
2014-2015 Ministry of Prayer and Presence, Mount Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio
Died: February 6, 2016
Sr. Kim Dalgarn, SNDdeN
February 6, 2016