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Remembering Sister Margaret O'Brien

Posted July 24, 2023 in Obituaries

Joyful, Patient, Faithful

Sister Margaret O’Brien chose readings for her funeral that speak to her very being, readings of faith in God, love of neighbor, patience, prayer and joy. She also directed that the homily was to be a reflection on the readings rather than her life, giving witness to the command to honor others above self. In death as in life, hers is an example of selflessness, sincerity and service.

Margaret Ann was born in Cleveland to Ann and Matthew O’Brien. She grew up in St. Therese Parish in Garfield Heights with her brothers, Raymond and Jack, and her sisters, Norma and Jane. In her teen years she graduated from Beaumont School and joined the Ursuline Sisters in 1949. As Sister Ann Matthew, she pursued higher education, earning both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from St. John College while teaching full time. In addition, she studied religious life before professing her final vows in 1955.

Sister Margaret O’Brien was a patient and faithful educator for sixty years.  She taught in elementary schools, in the parish school of religion and/or as principal in a variety of schools: Holy Cross, St. Ann, Immaculate Conception (Cleveland), St. Robert, St. Therese, Our Lady of Peace, St. Mary (Mentor), St. Paul (Euclid), Our Lady of Good Counsel, and St. Bernadette. It is no surprise, then, that she was also asked to serve as a mentor to teachers through the Cleveland Catholic Diocese. Her own Ursuline Sisters have been expressing their gratitude to Sister Margaret repeatedly in these final days of her life, describing her guidance, sense of humor and unwavering commitment to them and their students as they taught with her.

At a time when her peers were retiring, Sister Margaret lovingly accepted new ministries, serving as Director of Care at St. Bernadette, receptionist at Carmel of the Holy Family, tutoring at the Ursuline Institute of Learning, assisting on the motherhouse coordinating team, and ministering at Altercare at St. Joseph Center. Never one to sit down and rest, she graciously responded when her gifts were called upon. Even in her final months of life, she continued to iron and to sweep her suite, not wanting to be a burden on anyone and trying to give with her final energy. She witnessed to the generous command of God to love with her whole heart, soul and strength.

Sister Margaret was selfless to the end, teaching by example how to minister to family and community in the way she faced illness and death.  In spite of her own preferences in the midst of hospice care and funeral planning, her ultimate choice was to be faithful to God through the Ursuline congregation while deeply respecting the desires of her family. Witnessing her humor, her patience, her blend of strength and vulnerability was a grace for all who encountered her.

How will we remember Sister Margaret in the years ahead?  She was an excellent teacher, touching countless lives with her skill and dedication. She was an administrator par excellence, a role model for others and a grace in their lives.  Most importantly, she was a woman committed to her Catholic faith, her Ursuline community and her large and loving family.  Because of her goodness, our lives are better, and we will seek to live in her spirit to honor her memory.

The Ursuline Sisters trustingly surrendered Sister Margaret to God at home at Merici Crossings on July 22nd after 73 years of sharing community life. In addition to the congregation, Sister Margaret is survived by her sisters Norma Carney (Martin, deceased) and Jane O’Connor (Donald, deceased), her Ursuline niece, Sister Erin O’Brien, and many other nieces and nephews.

Services for Sister Margaret will be held at Church of the Gesu, 2470 Miramar Blvd., University Hts.

A wake will be held for visitation on Friday, July 28th at Merici Crossings, 29777 Fairmount Blvd., Pepper Pike from 6:30-8:00 P.M.

Funeral Mass: Saturday, July 29th at 11:00 at Church of the Gesu

Burial: All Souls Cemetery

Memorial donations may be made to the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland: www.ursulinesisters.org

Arrangements by Schulte Mahon Murphy