June 22, 1930 – November 14, 2016
Sister Marguerite was born Mary Catherine Schoenung. She and her twin sister were the fourth and fifth children and eldest daughters of what would grow to be a household of 12 children, two loving parents and their Aunt Marney. Mary Catherine and her sister had many happy memories of growing up just down the street from St. George Church. It was at St. George School that they met and quickly came to love the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Both her family and the Sisters instilled in Mary Catherine a deep devotion to the Sacred Heart and the Eucharist. The call to religious life was solidified in the 2nd grade as the twins made their First Communion. Mary Catherine later described the experience: “We had Sisters in school and wanted to do God’s work, too. We always wanted to belong to Jesus.” After Mary Catherine and her sister finished their education they worked for three years to help ease the family’s financial burden. Mary Catherine worked first as a secretary in the payroll department of Red Tap Brewing Company and then as a typist for the Polk Company. In her spare time she took college courses to help prepare for her ministry of teaching.
By spring of 1951 their youngest siblings were well on their way to finishing school so Mary Catherine and her sister made plans to enter the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. The entrance application asked why Mary Catherine wanted to enter Notre Dame. She wrote: “I chose Notre Dame because…the devotion to the Sacred Heart is one of the principal devotions of the Order.” She added “...so that I may belong to the Sacred Heart entirely and that I may bring others to know and love Him.” The day the twins entered Notre Dame all of their siblings took off from school or work so they, with Mom, Dad and Aunt Marney, could accompany the twins to Mt. Notre Dame. It was a strong show of love and support that continued through the years.
As postulants, Mary Catherine and her sister became part of a band of 14 women who were encouraged by the Mistress of Postulants not to compete with one another but to love one another. They took her advice to heart and soon named themselves the GGG – the Greatest Group Going. Letters, phone calls and regular reunions have kept them close through the years. As a novice Mary Catherine received the name she was known by for the rest of her life: Sister Marguerite of the Sacred Heart.
Sister began her teaching career with 2nd graders. Eventually she would be able to say she taught every level from kindergarten through 8th grade. Her specialties were math, science and religious education, and at times she served as coordinator for all three areas in the schools she served. An excellent teacher, Sister Marguerite quietly and calmly handled her classes, giving plenty of attention and praise to students who tried hard. She said, “Nothing succeeds like success. If you can get the children to succeed at something and let them know you care about them, they can do anything. I find praise does a lot more than complaining about their behavior.” Sister Marguerite claimed to enjoy teaching no matter what grade she was assigned: “I do believe that for me it doesn’t matter so much which grade I have but the kind of people with which I work.” For her the goal was always to bring Christ’s love to those in need. When she had the opportunity to choose where she would teach, Sister Marguerite consistently choose inner city schools.
Sister recognized the growing needs among the children in our changing world and believed that starting school sooner would heighten their chances of success. She put her theory into practice by spending the last 24 years of her full-time teaching career with kindergarteners. It was no surprise to anyone that she was “fantastic with little children.” In 1999 Sister Marguerite received the Miami Valley Catholic Education Council Teacher of Excellence Award in recognition of her 45 years of full time teaching. Asked what motivated her in the classroom she said, “To let the children know that God loves them no matter what they do.”
For 25 summers Sister Marguerite and her sister extended their teaching to the neediest children in Cincinnati’s Millvale neighborhood where, through the Practical Family Living Center, they organized field trips, arts and crafts programs, and did some reading and math tutoring. In 1997 the twins began tutoring in the summer program at Corryville Catholic School. It was a natural transition in 1999, when they left full time teaching, to continuing tutoring at Corryville Catholic. For two years they served as full time tutors through the Notre Dame Mission Volunteer AmeriCorps Program. Sister Marguerite continued tutoring at Corryville through 2011.
Sister Marguerite and her twin, Sister Frances Mary, were happy being twins and were extremely close. For 17 years they were missioned to separate house, and often in separate cities. In 1971 Sister Frances Mary was given the opportunity to continue teaching at St. Helen’s but to live at Holy Family Convent in Dayton where Sister Marguerite lived. The twins were delighted to be back under the same roof and were inseparable from then on. The two sisters were best friends and thanked God for the blessing of being able to live in the same community. They claimed never to have had an argument. The twins described their life together as “our together way to God.” Journeying life together with God, they believed, allowed them to do many things that they might not have been able to do separately.
During their years at Holy Family Parish, the sisters worked together every Friday evening to clean the church and take care of other work in the sacristy. At their golden jubilee one parishioner said, “The piety, humility and dedication of these extraordinary women exemplify the characteristics of the hundreds of Sisters who have taught East Dayton children ….” Besides her work in the sacristy, Sister Marguerite served as a lector and Eucharistic Minister in the parishes where she lived. She also coordinated CCD classes and, at Holy Family Parish, she was a regular bingo worker.
Another “together” experience was the deep devotion of the twins to their niece, Francie. While they were devoted to all of their family, Francie was a special needs child. From her birth the twins accepted and loved her totally. For Marguerite a memorable experience of her life was teaching Francie to read. Francie’s mother left the family when Francie was 10 years old. The twins had already been offering emotional support and weekend help to Francie’s dad, a role they continued as long as they were able. When they moved to Cincinnati in 1999 the twins were given permission to live with their younger sister, Ruth, who had followed her own call to the religious life as a Sister of St. Francis. Ruth lived in a house owned by Francie’s father, Tom. Francie would join her three aunts for weekends and return home during the week. After Ruth’s death the twins continued living in the house and spending weekends with Francie for as long as they could.
In community Sister Marguerite was a loyal friend & a good listener. She was very interested in what is going on in the lives of the Sisters and her excellent memory helped her remember details. It should not surprise anyone that one year on retreat Sister Marguerite and her sister memorized the entrance date of every Sister in the Province so they could pray for each one on her anniversary of entrance. Marguerite took a special interest in Sisters who were ill, asking for updates so she could focus her prayers for each one. Sister Marguerite kept up with current events, enjoyed reading, a good discussion, movies and TV programs that offered some depth. She appreciated opportunities for intellectual development and spiritual growth. A special cross for Sister Marguerite in her later years was her hearing difficulty. Her first words on joining Sisters at table were always, “Were there any announcements?”
Sister Marguerite welcomed the changes in religious life brought about by Vatican II. She felt the changes improved her interaction with parents of children she taught, made her work at Millvale possible, enabled her to have closer relationships with her family and coworkers and made it possible for her to spend time with Francie. As Sister became less able to do for others she put more of her time and energy into praying for people and the problems facing our world. Besides participating in daily Eucharist, Sister Marguerite was very devoted to her daily rosary. As she prayed it, she mentioned many of her Sisters, and others in need of prayer, by name.
At the time of her 60th jubilee she wrote, “God has showered me with many blessings. God has exceeded my every hope, and I am so grateful to Him for all these gifts.” We, Sister Marguerite’s family, friends and Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, are so grateful to our good God for gifting us with Sister Marguerite. We thank God for all the ways she made God’s goodness known through her life. As we gather to celebrate her life, we pray with her, as we know she continues to pray for us:
Shout joyfully to the Lord, all you lands; serve the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful song…Enter his gates with thanksgiving, his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name; good indeed is the Lord, His mercy endures forever, his faithfulness lasts through every generation. (Psalm 100)
Born June 22, 1930 in Cincinnati, Ohio
Parents: Martin Schoenung (born in Cincinnati, Ohio) and Frances Deters (born in Cincinnati, Ohio)
Siblings: Stanley Schoenung, Martin Schoenung Jr., Raymond Schoenung, Sr. Frances Mary of the Sacred Heart Schoenung SNDdeN, Hubert Schoenung, Sr. Ruth Schoenung OSF, John Schoenung, Jerome Schoenung, Julie Schoenung Reece, Joseph Schoenung, Thomas Schoenung
Baptized on June 29, 1930 at St. George Church, Cincinnati, Ohio
Confirmed on June 18, 1939 at St. George Church, Cincinnati, Ohio
Entered September 7, 1951 at Mt. Notre Dame
First Profession: March 12, 1954
Final Profession: August 13, 1959
St. George Parish School, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1944
Our lady of Angels High School, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1948
Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio, 1965
1954-1958 St. Robert Bellarmine School, Chicago, Illinois
1958-1959 St. Augustine School, Columbus, Ohio
1959-1962 Ascension School, Dayton, Ohio
1962-1965 Our Lady of the Rosary School, Dayton, Ohio
1965-1966 St. Augustine School, Columbus, Ohio
1966-1999 Holy Family School, Dayton, Ohio
1999-2001 Notre Dame AmeriCorps Member, Cincinnati, Ohio
2001-2010 Volunteer Tutor, Corryville Catholic School, Cincinnati, Ohio
2011-2016 Ministry of Prayer, Mt. Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio
Died at Mt. Notre Dame Health Center on November 14, 2016
Sr. Kim Dalgarn SNDdeN
November 15, 2016