June 3, 1924 – September 16, 2016
As I walked into S. Margaret Downing (Bertin’s) room Thursday morning, I was aware of the banner that hung on the wall. It read, “Live In the Goodness of Today”. I do believe that Margaret lived in the spirit of those words; receiving the happenings of each day, cognizant of its graces and challenges, and, as we will hear in today’s first reading from Ecclesiasticus, aware that there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven. Many of you know that Margaret had great devotion to the Blessed Mother. How poignant that she was called home to her loving God on one of Mary’s feasts, that of Our Lady of Sorrows. Coincidence? I think not. Everything that happens, occurs at a time that God chooses.
On September 8, 1942, Margaret Mary Downing, open to God’s grace within her, chose to live out her baptismal promises by living a vowed life as a Sister of Saint Joseph of Boston. In gratitude and quiet joy Margaret faithfully lived her call for over 74 years.
The seeds of Margaret’s vocation were planted, took root and blossomed as she witnessed the deep faith, love and commitment that existed between of her parents, Michael and Winifred. Through their example, she and her siblings, Eleanor, Betty (S. Belita) and John, learned the importance of love of God, of family values, and of openness to serving others. The numerous pictures displayed in Margaret’s room were a testament to the love she shared with her family and friends and they with her.
Noted on the cover of this booklet are words taken from our CSJ Constitutions: “Called first by Christ, we call one another to follow him as he is revealed in the Gospel and in the people events and circumstances of our life…which results in the fullness of life for ourselves and for others.”
With confidence in these words, Margaret became a positive influence in the lives the many sisters with whom she shared community life. Many spoke of her care, warmth, generosity, humor, openness, creativity, gratitude, encouragement and even of her ability as a gourmet cook. In her quiet, patient fashion, Margaret revealed strength and gentleness. Even in times of challenge and illness, she was unwavering in her genuine trust, and acceptance of God’s faithfulness to her. God’s grace was sufficient.
For over 68 years Margaret was recognized for ministering so successfully as a competent, well prepared educator serving in various parish elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Boston, many of those at Holy Name School and Parish in West Roxbury. Often during these days I heard statements such as what a wonderful a teacher she was, how good she was with her students, how well prepared they were for their next educational pursuits. Throughout all of her ministerial life Margaret lived the charism of a Sister of St. Joseph, that of unifying love, believing that God was at work in her, mindful always of doing God’s will with joy, of sharing her gifts and herself with others. Some of you are aware that Margaret was a great walker. Friends and neighbors mentioned how great it was to see her walking the streets of West Roxbury, with her hat perched atop her head, greeting people along the way.
As Margaret’s health began to decline, and after ministering for 25 years at Holy Name, she transitioned to Bethany Health Care Center, a change made with courage, openness and grace. There is a time for everything that happens, a time when God chooses.
Margaret did her best during her lifetime, to model herself after Christ, the Blessed Mother and her patron, Joseph, well aware of the words found in today’s readings from Ecclesiasticus, Revelations and Matthew: there is a time for every purpose under heaven; the old order is gone, I will make all things new; be happy and glad for a great reward is kept for you in heaven.
And so today we celebrate Margaret’s new life with God, her parents, her sisters and sister-in-law, and her CSJ friends especially, S. Rosalie and S. Rita Morrissey.
As a faithful witness to God’s life within her, Margaret became the instrument through which God’s word touched the hearts of so many. We are grateful for the gift of your life among us, Margaret. You enriched us all through your prayers, your love and your support. We delight with you knowing that you now experience the fullness of life in God’s loving embrace.
Roseann Amico, CSJ
September 19, 2016