Mother Margaret and The Little Sisters of The Poor
The Irish Americans
The Little Sisters of the Poor arrived in San Francisco on March 14, 1901, taking up residence at 2030 Howard Street. They were welcomed by George Doherty, an Irish laborer and widower; within weeks they were joined by the first woman resident, Anne Doyle. Over the years thousands of elderly men and women, of all faiths, nationalities, and backgrounds of society, have been welcomed through the doors of St. Anne's Home, which was rebuilt in 1982 and is now on Lake Street.
Today, St. Anne’s is in the capable hands of Mother Superior Margaret Lennon. As a teenager Mother Margaret decided that she had found her life’s calling when she came across an article on the Little Sisters in a magazine, and she has never regretted her decision. In fact, she says of her life of service that she’s gotten back “a hundred fold.”
Margaret, who grew up on a farm in County Kilkenny with one brother and four sisters, began her religious life in the novitiate in Dublin, where she took the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, to which the Little Sisters of the Poor add a fourth, hospitality. She entered the order on September 8, 1960, as is traditional, the day before the birthday of the Blessed Mother, and will celebrate her 49th anniversary this year.
Margaret’s parents supported her decision. “My father said, ‘As long as you are happy. Because if you are not happy you will be miserable and make life miserable for everyone else,’” she recalls with a chuckle.
The Little Sisters have several homes in Ireland, and some 35 homes in the U.S. In 1963, Margaret was sent to Savannah, Georgia. She still recalls with horror her first experience of racism, and the “separate lines” for whites and blacks. “We had a black driver, a wonderful man named David Shepard, but in certain areas we had to duck down in the car lest the Ku Klux Klan shoot at us for having a black man as a driver,” she remembers. She has spent time in several of the homes in the U.S., including Chicago and Ohio, and is now back for her second tour in San Francisco.
The news that the foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor, Jeanne Jugan, is going to be canonized this October is “wonderful – something that I did not expect to happen in my lifetime. It’s a great, great honor for our congregation.
“[Jeanne] picked the name of the congregation, ‘little’ meaning humility, unassuming, the opposite to being proud and haughty.”
The Little Sisters depend on donations. “We depend solemnly on divine providence – St. Joseph is our father, protector and provider – we depend on what people give us,” she said.
Mother Margaret says she has found “great job satisfaction” in serving the elderly. “We value their life at every stage, not just when they are in their productive years. Their ‘suffering lives’ still have a very redemptive value.”
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