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Sister Margaret McCleary accepts Hibernian Christian Charity Award

Hibernian Award

Sister Margaret McCleary (center) is the recipient of this year’s Hibernian Christian Charity Award. Atty. John J. Driscoll made the presentation at the March 11 Communion Breakfast, hosted by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, James A. Curran Division One of Hampden/Hampshire Counties, and held at The Wherehouse? in Holyoke. Atty. Driscoll said the award recognizes Sister Margaret, founder of Providence Ministries for the Needy, Inc. (PMN) in 1980. PMN programs, like Kate’s Kitchen, Broderick House, and the Loreto House, were established to address the food and housing needs of the poor and marginalized in the Holyoke community and beyond.


Responding to the award, Sister Margaret said: “As the saying goes, ‘It takes a village.’ I am one person in that village.” She went on to accept the honor “for all the people in this village community who have joined with the Sisters of Providence in our humble efforts to walk with and empower those who are poor.” She elaborated that, “It is a hope and desire of my heart that long into the future there will be people like you to continue the mission of the Sisters of Providence, to embrace in friendship those who are poor, and to continue the mission our Sisters began in this city 145 years ago. All people in this village community, whether they realize it or not, embrace the values of the Hibernians—‘friendship, unity and true Christian charity.’”

Focusing on serving others
During the program Atty. Driscoll read the following letter from author Tom Shea, featured speaker at last year’s breakfast, who was unable to attend this year’s event. “When I heard the name of this year’s award recipient… all I could think of were the corporal works of mercy. I bet I wasn’t alone. They are to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned and bury the dead. Seven sentence fragments—30 words. In that short space, a life’s work offering the extended hand in a too often hard world, a living example of God’s providence here, in Holyoke—in the person of Sister Margaret McCleary—is condensed.”

Shea said Sister Margaret once told him she learned about caring for others as a teenager while working in Mercy Hospital cafeteria under the supervision of the late Sister Mary Evangelist. “When the cafeteria was closed for the night,” he wrote, “Sister Evangelist would open the door to the homeless. She made sure the tables were always set for them. She treated them like they were invited to the Last Supper. She knew many didn’t have teeth, or if they did, did not have such great teeth. She was worried about them being able to chew, so they were served something soft, but nutritious: pasta, macaroni and cheese, boiled vegetables, mashed potatoes, a fruit cup. You get the idea.”

“It was a sermon that couldn’t be preached,” he pointed out. “And Sister Margaret has done that. Thank God.”

Sister Margaret McCleary riding in Holyoke’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade with Paul Hogan, recipient of the Citizen of the Year Award.

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