Words of remembrance for Sr Margaret MinesPrint
Sister Margaret Mines RSC, OAM
May 21, 1934 – June 12, 2021
Mass of Christian Burial: Friday, June 18, 2021, St John the Baptist Church, Enoggera Qld
Motto: “Mihi vivere est Christus” (For me to live is Christ)
Sr Libbey Byrne remembers Sr Margaret:
On May 22, the day after her 87th birthday, I received an email from Margaret. Among other things, it contained instructions to get into her unit and the words, “My vows are in a gold box in the top drawer.”
Last Monday, I went to the drawer, found the box, conveniently labelled “My Vows” with Margaret’s handwritten vows from 1954 and ’59 – and so much more besides.
Quietly, and with purpose, Margaret prepared herself, and us, for the death she knew was coming.
When I look at the box now, it’s like a boxed set of “How to Be a Sister of Charity.”
The box contained reflections, some jubilee liturgies, and other objects to illustrate the living embodiment of a vowed life, especially our fourth vow of Service of the Poor.
For Margaret, the motto: For me, to live is Christ, permeated her days and nights as the love of Christ impelled her life’s journey.
Some of you who did not know well her have asked: “What was Margaret like?” The simple answer – she was a Sister of Charity. In her words to the Mt St Michael’s girls:
As a Sister of Charity, I learned how to pray better and how to listen for the quiet voice of God that has inspired me and led me on all these years.
Trained as a primary teacher, Margaret spread the message of God’s love to the small children in her care, enjoying their learning to read and preparing them to receive first Communion and Confirmation – in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane.
In 1984, called to a new ministry in Pastoral Care at St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, Margaret wrote: … a new and strange disease puzzled the doctors. People got very sick very quickly… and died quickly. … it was a time of great fear… the media made F-E-A-R the big headline and warned people to avoid those who had the disease…
… there was a lot of discrimination and injustice…
I was scared too at first… so I prayed for courage and got on with life urged on by the love of Christ. I came to know people living with HIV/AIDS as wonderful people, so brave and grateful that at St Vincent’s Hospital they were treated with respect… all patients were shown the love and tenderness of God by the wonderful staff I worked alongside.
Family members and friends came to visit, and Margaret got to know them too… many of you will be watching today. She said: Mostly I just listened to them, but I listened to God and listened to myself too, thinking about all I was learning from the stories of life I was hearing from the patients, their families, and friends.
Because of the discrimination, people were saying it would be good to have a place, a space where they could be respected for who they were, where people would understand them, where they would not always be reminded about their disease.
And so, the Tree of Hope was born – in an old school library at Surrey Hills. Margaret worked there for the next ten years providing hospitality and a listening ear to all who came.
What Margaret didn’t tell the MSM girls was of her being awarded Medal of the Order of Australia in 1994 and World Aids Day Medal in 1996, or that she would sometimes sit up all night with those dying of the disease.
In 2006 Margaret returned to Ashgrove in Brisbane… about three streets away from the house where she grew up and close to members of her family. In her “retirement,” Margaret worked as a volunteer at the Faber Centre of Ignatian Spirituality in Bardon, was a friend to Mt St Michael’s College community and organised Remembrance Services for deceased sisters at Toowoomba and Nudgee cemeteries in November.
A car accident in 2015 led to Margaret’s physical world shrinking considerably, but she remained faithful to her connections with the friends and families she had known during her ministry to people living with HIV/AIDS through many phone calls and email, to family members and to the friends she made here at St John the Baptist Parish and Retirement Community.
She reflected: We go on with courage to work with others, often on the margins, the edges of life, finding those in need.
There are many more words to be said but as the writer of John’s Gospel expressed it “I suppose the world could not contain” the stories to be told.
The last words now belong to Margaret and inspired our choice of Gospel today:
As a pastoral carer, I often thought I was like “the hem of his garment”
– “If I touch the hem, I will be healed and saved.”
His garment would have been dragged along in mud and so on,
maybe frayed at the edges etc – just like me.
We were showing the love of God to people, praying with them, touching them,
giving them hope by being there for them.
We were given the courage to go on, we touched his garment…
They did too, through us.
- Sr Libbey Byrne