Celebrating Margaret Anna

Today is the 108th anniversary of the death of Margaret Anna Cusack, known in religion as Mother Francis Clare, founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. We celebrate today as Founder's Day - although we're actually gathering next Saturday to celebrate the day here in the Eastern Province. (Rather than repost my original Founder's Day post for the third time, you can read it here . To read even more of my musings about Margaret Anna, check out this page here.)

I first got to know Margaret Anna on the eve of my first Vocation Discernment Retreat when I found a book about her in the library at west coast groovy hq and devoured it in one sitting. Ever since she has been a spiritual friend and a fiery mentor. Margaret Anna was a strong advocate for the poor and oppressed, especially women. For example, in 1874 she wrote:
‘Give women their rights then, for these rights are justice – justice to men as well as women, for the interests of men and women cannot be separated. Let women have the possession and the control of their property; it is necessary right for the rich as well as for the poor’ - Woman's Work in Modern Society
Talk about a woman ahead of her time!

Known at the "Nun of Kenmare," Margaret Anna was a prolific writer. She wrote and published spiritual works, biographies of saints and histories of Ireland. By 1870, more than 200,000 copies of her works had circulated throughout the world. Profits from the sale of books were used for the Sisters' work with the poor.

Later she shifted the focus of her writing from research to reform. She directed her words at those persons and institutions which she saw as obstructing justice for the people of Ireland during the Famine of 1879. She became a symbol of liberation and simultaneously incurred the strong disapproval of Church and political leaders.

I've taken advantage of the opportunity during the Novitiate to read some of Margaret Anna's many writings. You can even find read some of them in their entirety on Google now!

Margaret Anna has reached the internet age!


Antony said...

I love her!

Jennifer said...

Why do you call her Margaret Anna instead of M. Frances Claire?

Susan Rose, CSJP said...

Jennifer - in the community she is known as both "Mother Clare" and "Margaret Anna."

I think calling her Margaret Anna is a sort of term of endearment. Her story is complicated, and for 75 plus years our Sisters did not know anything about her. When she was rediscovered in the late 60's/early 70's, many began to call her Margaret Anna, including the Sister who wrote one of the major biographies of her.

As to why I call her Margaret Anna, my answer is simply that it feels right.