Margaret Ellen died on Mardi Gras 2002. Like the day she died her time on earth was a celebration of life on a grand scale. Margaret was a tireless activist on behalf of civil rights, women’s rights and human rights. In the 1960’s she worked with the National Coalition for Interracial Justice and participated in marches in Alabama and Mississippi. She served as educational and Executive Director for the National Catholic Council for Interracial Justice.
She established numerous nationally acclaimed educational programs including Cabrini Schools, Chicago; Project Bridge, Cleveland, Ohio; and Choice, which placed teachers with doctorates in African American colleges to enable the college’s faculty time for further study. The United Negro Colleges granted her an honorary doctor of laws for this service.
She promoted human rights by speaking worldwide, testifying to congress on the Equal Rights Amendment and by serving as an advisor to the World Council of Churches; United Farm Workers of California; and Native Americans at Wounded Knee, Pine Ridge, SD. Margaret founded the Inter-Religious Conference on Soviet Jewry, receiving Israel’s medal of honor.
Margaret was passionate about women’s rights and feminism both within the Church and in society. She founded the National Coalition of American Nuns, the first feminist organization in the Catholic church; the Institute of Women Today, which serves women in prison. In the early 1980s, Margaret founded Maria Shelter and Casa Notre Dame in Chicago to provide safe housing, educational instruction and job skill training for women recently released from prison. In the mid-1980’s, Margaret signed a New York Times ad calling for dialogue on the issue of abortion within the Catholic Church citing that a diversity of opinions existed among faithful Catholics.
Sister Margaret Ellen dedicated her life to serving God through her human rights ministry. “There was no one to speak for them,” she said. “I’m grateful to God for my call.”
She was a tree of life spreading branches of justice, rooted in the wellspring of family, faith and sisterhood and planting seeds of restoration, renewal, and healing throughout the world.