Sister Margaret Kern
Welcome to this Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Margaret Kern. On behalf of the Sisters of Providence, I extend sympathy and the promise of our prayers to Sister Margaret’s family and friends, especially to her nephew Joe, who is able to be here with us today, said Sister Connie Kramer in her commentary for Sister Margaret Kern, who died Monday, Aug. 3. She was 89 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 64 years.
The Saint Mother Theodore quote, “This is the path traced by Providence and I follow it,” which is printed on Sister Margaret’s memorial card, was one she dearly loved. And for her, this path began when she was born on March 28, 1926, in Bloomington, Indiana, to Wendall and Loretta Torphy Kern and baptized Mary Margaret. She was their second child and only daughter and was preceded in death by her only brother, William Kern Sr.
Sister Margaret’s Providence path took her to St. Vincent DePaul Elementary School, Bedford High School in Bedford, Indiana, and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, where in 1948 she earned a bachelor’s degree in finance before entering the Sisters of Providence on July 22, 1951.
She professed first vows on Jan. 23, 1954, and final vows on Jan. 23, 1959. Although she would have preferred to focus her advanced education in the field of history, she again followed the path traced by Providence for her and earned an MBA degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1965. Much later, in 1982, she enjoyed participating in the Credo Program at Gonzaga University and completed her formal educational experiences when she followed the inspiration of her God and completed a Spiritual Direction Certificate Program in Wernersville, Pennsylvania, in 1993.
For Sister Margaret, education was necessary to participate in God’s mission in this world. She believed deeply in the words found in the Gospel of John that will be proclaimed in this liturgy, “You did not choose me, no, I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last.” So, in her 64 years as a Sister of Providence, she used her education to “bear fruit” as a high school teacher in Indiana and Oklahoma for 14 years, as a professor at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College for five years, as General Treasurer of the Congregation for 15 years, as Director of Finance for the Diocese of Covington, Kentucky, for eight years, and as President of Mother Theodore Guerin High School in River Grove, Illinois, for three years. She also used her administrative gifts as a member of the leadership team of Providence Center, now Providence Spirituality and Conference Center, for five years and as house treasurer for Providence Hall.
Sister Margaret’s education also bore fruit within other religious communities. A few months ago, Brother Peter Campbell, a member of the Brothers of St. Francis Xavier, came to visit Sister Margaret and Sister Ann Margaret O’Hara. Sister Ann Margaret shared with me the following: “When I visited with Peter Campbell and Margaret during his last visit with her several months ago, I realized how much both of them contributed to the planning and future of religious congregations for so many years. They were about good finances, but they were also about the mission. They reflected on how difficult it was at the beginning and what a difference the planning had meant.”
And when Peter learned of Sister Margaret’s death, he wrote back to Sister Ann Margaret, “Thank you for the notice. Margaret was a good friend and good mentor to me, especially when I was young and starting out in the legal/financial world. Very wise lady. I will miss her. I will ask my community to pray for her.”
We, as a Community, are deeply indebted to Sister Margaret for not only her vision, but also her courage in making the hard choices necessary to be able to provide for our retired sisters through the creation of our Sisters of Providence Community Trust Fund, which has changed the face of our lived experience as a Community for several decades.
Over the years, I watched Sister Margaret work tirelessly for the sake of the mission, always aware of what would be best for the common good of the Community. She lived out what the reading from Sirach proclaims, “Trust God and God will help you; trust in God and God will direct your ways.” She was surprised when she was invited to move into Providence Health Care in 2010, and called me to come discern with her what she should do. She was surprised again when about a year later, she was invited to move to the west wing of health care and again called me to come discern with her what she should do. In both instances, she came to the conclusion that for the sake of the Community and the common good, she needed to say yes and trust that her God would provide for her in new ways.
Sister Margaret was well-known for her sound advice on many matters. Those who came to her for spiritual direction for the past 20 years found her to be a compassionate listener who believed that a loving God would always provide for those who sought God’s help. She sought to affirm what was good and to invite others to take to prayer and discernment what was challenging in their lives. One of her directees said, “My prayer life has been enhanced by our frequent conversations on spirituality. Margaret modeled for me how to live with a chronic illness. She never complained about her health issues. She accepted what she had and lived life to the fullest every day.”
In Sister Margaret’s own Bible, she had underlined verse 4 of The True Vine section in Chapter 15 of the Gospel of John, which read “Make your home in me, as I make mine in you,” and in a hand-written note next to this verse, she wrote “Your love enfolds me, Jesus, stay with me always.”
Within the past year, I once asked Margaret, “Of all the roles and titles you have had in your life, such as ‘money bags,’ which one touched your heart?”
She quickly responded that when she was leaving as President of Guerin High School, Sister Judy Shanahan said to her, “Margaret, you have been an excellent president here at Guerin High School, yet what I most admire about you is that you are a friend of Jesus.” She smiled broadly and simply said, “All I ever want to be in my life is a friend of Jesus.”
I have known Sister Margaret for 50 years as my sister in Community, a mentor, and friend. I began working in her finance office as a novice, and many years later, she came to volunteer in my office at St. Ann Parish. We have shared lots of joys, sorrows, struggles and challenges together.
It was my privilege during this past year to discern with her the plans for this funeral liturgy, which we celebrate. In its totality of song, prayer and readings, it is for me Sister Margaret’s final Magnificat for the God that chose her long ago to be a Sister of Providence.
I hope you will choose to hear her voice speaking to your heart of her compassion, love, wisdom, support and challenge through every element of this sacred Eucharistic celebration.
Funeral services for Sister Margaret took place Friday, Aug. 7, in the Church of the Immaculate Conception.
A wake took place from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., on Friday, Aug. 7, with Mass of Christian Burial taking place at 11 a.m.
We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Margaret in the comment section below.
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