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Benedictines remember Sister Margaret Mary

Benedictines remember Sister Margaret Mary - (08-08-2017)

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Benedictine Sister of Perpetual Adoration Margaret Mary Bielinski, OSB passed away Aug. 7, 2017, at Our Lady of Rickenbach in Clyde, Missouri.

She was born on April 12, 1923, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Alex and Veronica Chucka Bielinski.  Given the name Monica, she grew up with seven siblings and attended Catholic grade school. During the Depression, the family moved from Milwaukee to Black River Falls, Wisconsin, a small town that was quieter than the city they were used to.  

“My uncle owned the only hotel in town, and we all got jobs there,” she recalled. “Things weren’t too exciting, so we made things happen.”  Those things included a variety of outdoor activities she loved: hunting, fishing, collecting specimens of insects and all things science.

“I had a terrarium with a live snake, an aquarium with eight fish and cocoons that hatched in my room,” she said. “I pressed leaves, waxed flowers and even tried my hand at taxidermy.” 

After Monica’s high school graduation, knowing jobs would be scarce in a small town, she told her mother she was moving back to Milwaukee on her own.

“It was OK by her as she left us free to make our own choices,” she remembered.

She worked as a housekeeper, in a bakery and a retail store. Then World War II began, and she became an inspector in a factory, working the second shift and making a good salary.

However, after making a retreat at a convent when she was 18 years old, she suspected God might be calling her to do something else with her life.

“The retreat made a great impression, and Jesus became real to me,” she said.

Over the next few years, she spent time in prayer, enrolled in several religious associations and read booklets from the Benedictine Sisters such as “Eucharistic Adorer.”

“The desire to lead a religious life was growing, so I made changes in my life,” she said.

She began making novenas, additional retreats and confided in her priest, seeking spiritual advice. She ultimately decided she wanted to follow the contemplative life led by the Benedictine Sisters.

“It wasn’t a hard decision to make,” she said. “I longed to be a spouse of Christ, and I never once regretted it.”

Her parents, who had since moved the rest of the family back to Milwaukee and with whom she was living, completely supported her decision.

“My mother was thrilled, and when my father said, ‘I give you my blessing,’ I knelt on the floor in gratitude as he did so,” she said.

But leaving her family behind to join the Benedictine Sisters was hard for her. She prepared to leave for Clyde in January 1944. Her family went to Mass together, made a special breakfast then sent her off on the Wabash train. 

Although she’d been sad about leaving her family behind to begin a new life in the monastery, those feelings were soon put to rest upon her arrival. She attended Mass and joined the Sisters for breakfast.

“The postulant director asked if I wanted to send my mother a telegram, so I did,” she said. “I wrote, ‘Just had breakfast. Everything is perfect.’”

Fifty years later she wrote that she could say that same thing about her life today.

Novice Monica made her first monastic profession on Sept. 1, 1945, and was given the name Sister Margaret Mary. She made her final monastic profession on Sept. 8, 1950.

During Sister Margaret Mary’s years as a Benedictine Sister, she lived at the Congregation’s monasteries in Clyde, Missouri; Kansas City, Missouri; San Diego and Tucson, Arizona. Her tasks included working in the sewing room, the bakery, the kitchen, the printery, the infirmary and the altar bread department. At Clyde she was superior of the healthcare wing and blossomed in the experience of caring for others. She was a good baker, many remember the delicious bread she made and her waffle Pizzelle cookies.

When younger, she liked to hike. Later, she did her hiking by walking around Tucson and attending extra masses in nearby parishes. When more elderly, she asked friends to take her. It was a form of outreach that bonded her to lay friends. She was a good listener, not a big talker. When she sat in chapel in Tucson, it was not uncommon for people to go up to her asking for prayers.

“Amidst all this activity, I tried to keep my life simple,” Sister Margaret Mary said.

Indeed, she did. She was a simple person with few needs.

“By inviting God to be part of our life, it helps to be aware of His Presence. Honoring experiences we have is an invaluable way to communicate with life, our greatest teacher,” she said.

During her last years in Tucson, she suffered the loss of her eyesight, which made it necessary to transfer to the Congregation’s health care center at Our Lady of Rickenbach in 2013. Though she saw less and less, the twinkle in her eyes remained focused on whomever was speaking with her.

Sister Margaret Mary loved her 72 years of monastic profession with a heart so devoted to Christ. She once summed up her gratitude and a spirituality of life.

“I appreciate most the stable life of prayer, lectio, adoration and community life. What more could a woman want in this world?” she said. “My talents have been used, and I am very grateful to be a Sister of Perpetual Adoration. Our love for each other is our greatest witness. Relationships are what it’s all about. We need each other to grow. All these friendships and circumstances have molded me into who I am today. God is more interested in who we are rather than what we do.”

Sister Margaret Mary’s funeral liturgy and burial at our Mount Calvary Cemetery is scheduled for Aug. 9, 2017.