Sister Adele Marie is the superior of the Society of Saint Margaret. The order is based in Duxbury, MA, though members of the order live and work at other sites, including Trinity’s Neal House. She visited Trinity in May.
Can you tell me about the Sisters of St. Margaret?
The Sisters of St. Margaret are a religious order that was founded in England in 1855. We came to the United States in 1873. The sisters started the nursing school for Children’s Hospital in Boston and our order was there until 1918.
I’m a product of church camp of Trinity, and the camp that sisters ran. The sisters did works with children, we still do—not so much camping anymore, but a lot of education work. We do retreat ministry and we do parish ministry such like what goes on here [at Trinity].
How many sisters are there in the order?
There are 19 sisters of St. Margaret now and we are spread from New England to New York City. We’re also in Dorchester, which is a section of Boston. The sisters do inner city ministry there, some of it is out of parishes. We’ve been in Haiti since 1927 and the sisters stayed there right through the aftermath of the earthquake. We’re based in Port au Prince but the sisters go throughout the diocese of Haiti visiting different missions.
What is the relationship with Trinity?
We have been connected with Trinity parish for many, many years, since probably the early 1900s. The sisters moved into Trinity Mission House [which provided education and outreach services to the neighborhood] on Fulton Street, I think that was about 1919.
I went to Trinity Mission House having been a member of the Intercession on the Upper West Side. I think it was 1955 when they closed down the work there (we didn’t know that it was becoming the World Trade Center at that point).
After I became a sister after college I was stationed for a while on Oliver St. We did work at St. Christopher on Henry Street. It was kind of a rough neighborhood, particularly when the gang wars were going on. We’d hear them running across the roof tops. Then they moved over to the Lower East Side and there was a lot of parish ministry and educational work. I remember teaching on Wednesday afternoons. That was challenging teaching the kids after school.
When the sisters moved over to the present location over a Neal House at Fulton Street they were ministering primarily to the residents of St. Margaret’s House, so it was a ministry to the elderly, and it evolved from that into a ministry much more focused out of Trinity parish itself.
What has your time as superior been like?
Like so many institutions and religious orders and churches we have been through major transitions. Our order was based on Beacon Hill for about 116 years. We decided that we would leave Beacon Hill and develop the property in Roxbury. That had been a nursing home we ran. After about 20 years there we realized it was not sustainable economically. So the sisters voted in 2010 to sell the property in Roxbury and we developed the property we have in Duxbury. Out of that challenging time of transition came the opportunity to build a new convent which we had never been able to do as an order.
We built a convent that is green. It’s powered by geothermal heating and cooling and we have 58 solar panels on the rooftop. It’s a beautiful property right on the bay. We have a couple of guest houses where we invite people. They come for retreat and times of quiet and times of refreshment. Our dream is to have an 18-room retreat center. And we have plans we have a contract, we have an architect. We have just one small item that’s missing—the funding. That’s what we’re working on. God willing that will become a reality.
It’s been challenging to go through those two major transitions but this is what Trinity is facing now, I understand. It’s hard work. You give thanks for what was, but you just keep looking ahead. It’s possible to survive transition. You have to be patient with oneself and with other people.