no doubt

I'm continuing to read The Nun of Kenmare, the autobiography of our groovy founder Margaret Anna Cusack.
No doubt if I had less used the gifts which God has given me, and had kept silent when I saw oppression, and had not spoken out when I saw the sufferings of the poor, and had observed a respectable mediocrity in well-doing, I should now have applause where I receive condemnation; I should have now good will where I found only opposition. Above all, if I had devoted my life to the service of the rich, my success would certainly have been great here if not hereafter. - Margaret Anna Cusack, The Nun of Kenmare 1889.
Strong words. Margaret Anna wrote this autobiography after many years of opposition to her work and speaking out on behalf of the poor of Ireland, especially women. As a woman herself, she was often accused of meddling in politics. In 1888 she felt she had no choice but to leave the community she founded to save it, as her reputation and the forces against her were making it impossible for the Sisters to go about their work for Irish immigrant women.
I believe, however, that it will be yet an immense success, for I leave it in the hands of sisters who are capable of making it such. And I hope the interest which will be revived when the injustice with which I have been treated is known, will help to establish the sisters firmly in their great work. For myself, I only desire to pass out of sight altogether, and to offer my defeat for their success.
There is a definite bitter edge to her words in this book. In some respects, she is like a wounded animal lashing out at anyone who had harmed or injured her in the previous 30 years.

In a letter to the Cardinal of New York asking (futiley it turns out) for an audience, she wrote:
I am no saint, but your eminence has read the lives of the saints, and you know how often and how cruelly the founders of religious orders were belied and misrepresented even by good people.
The good Cardinal and his successor refused the audience based on her reputation ... for 3 years. The Bishop of Newark, NJ welcomed Margaret Anna and the good works of her Sisters, which is why I sit here now on the shores of the Hudson River looking out at the City that rejected her. I've known this story, but I hadn't realized how much opposition she'd faced prior to her arrival in America. It's enough to fill almost 400 pages of her book! No wonder she was frustrated.

In the end, I am left as a Novice to a community without a "Saint" foundress. Margaret Anna was too real to ever be a saint, which was something she herself certainly seemed to be aware of. Her life was messy. Her story is complicated. She had tremendous gifts and like the rest of us she had her shadow side as well. In a nutshell, she was real. As are the women who follow in her footsteps today.

Her "failure" in the end is a success. The community flourished in the years after her departure just as she hoped, and here we are today facing the future, as our constitutions say, with gratitude and hope.

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