By Sr Mary Gerarda (Annie) Slanina, OSSR
Sister Margaret Reid was born in 1921; the paternal home was in Milton, ON. She was the second of four siblings born to an Irish-Catholic mother and a Protestant father. Margaret was always indignant at the fact that in those days the Catholic Church was less than ‘inclusive’ of her non-Catholic father. This translated into a life-long sensitivity to people of other faiths and a social consciousness.
Both of Margaret’s sisters married: the eldest Mary, raised her family in Oshawa, ON and Anne near Brampton ON. Margaret’s only brother Tom, next to her in age, became an air pilot. He worked for Air Canada, raised his family in Brampton, and in retirement moved to Vancouver.
Margaret was close to her father; it pained her that he was not invited to her First Holy Communion. A fuzzy memory recounts her telling a story they heard as children, it was about a Prince-child who chose to embrace a little ragged doll instead of other glittering toys. “On the day of my first Holy Communion I felt like that little ragged doll, embraced by a Prince when other children had both their parents present.” With her father she learned to graft and prune fruit trees in their family orchard. Later, with his approval, she went on to study. Margaret attended the University of Toronto and majored in Commerce.
During the University years she befriended a non-Catholic, Selma Bartlette. She brought Selma to Mass with her on a regular basis and often waited for Selma who was always late for everything! Eventually, Selma became a Catholic and entered the Redemptoristine Monastery in Barrie, ON. She was given the name Sister Mary Alphonsus of the Will of God. Unwittingly, Selma later became an inspiration to Margaret in her own vocational search.
After earning her Degree at U of T, while World War II was raging, Margaret joined the Canadian Army Women’s Corps where she served several years. During this time her father died. As the war ended, Margaret returned to civil life and engaged in Social Work, which prompted her to go for a degree in psychology-counselling. That would mark her henceforth. She had the facility of an astute ‘peacemaker’ in all facets of life, in community-events, in human relationships. She knew how to be everybody’s friend.
Over the years Margaret made many friends, she engaged in a number of relationships, but now in her 30’s, she came to visit Selma, in the cloister.
Margaret entered the Monastery of the Most Holy Redeemer in Barrie, ON in October of 1952. She was bilingual, English and French. Upon entering the Novitiate was given the name Sister Mary Pia of the Mystical Body…we nick-named her ‘pious’. She made her first profession in 1954. After Vatican II, the use of a legal name by Religious was encouraged, so Margaret returned to her baptismal name.
In 1965, the Barrie Community moved to Keswick, ON: new community elections gave Margaret the position of Bursar. But when our Sisters in Vienna, Austria asked for assistance, Margaret volunteered to go to Vienna. There she learned to speak Austrian-German, spent 20 years in Vienna, and relished the history of the first trans-alpine monastery of the Order. She delighted in learning the stories and personalities of those early, heroic women of its founding. While in Vienna, she had occasion to meet other Austrian and German Redemptoristines; in inter-community meetings she had occasion to see other monasteries. It was also while in Vienna that she learned to enjoy beer!
When the Vienna Monastery closed, Margaret returned to her monastery of origin, which was now in Fort Erie, ON. On her return route she visited our sisters in Spain and Ireland. Margaret brought back framed pictures of Vienna’s Founding-Prioress and other tokens of the first trans-alpine monastery with a deeply imbedded love of the Order.
By this time, Margaret, (like the rest of us) was well into middle age. During the time she was abroad she naturally acquired considerable experience of the Order, and matured in her own insight and wisdom. This was not always recognized nor readily accepted in the now diminished Fort Erie Community. She often experienced a personal disregard, ’made to feel like an outsider’ she confided. She would shrug it off and carry on. When during community meetings conflicts surfaced, it was Margaret who would be the voice of clarification for either side, and a source of mediation. Margaret was always a faithful sister and a staunch-friend.
There was nothing Margaret enjoyed more than a shared homily or shared prayer-reflection. That was why the charismatic prayer groups had such appeal for her. She enjoyed a good recreation; it was noted, that even at an advanced age she would get up to do a jig in response to music. Though she was not the most musical person, a good liturgical celebration with community participation in the music was much to her satisfaction.
In the 90’s when the OSSR Commission asked for volunteer sisters to be the editors of the OSSR Viva Memoria Publication, Sister Margaret volunteered again, delighted to be of service to the Order. This team of 3 sisters lived for some years with our Redemptoristine Community in Esopus, NY, USA. Later, when the VM editorial team was relocated, Margaret moved with it; they lived with our Sisters in Landser, France.
On return to the Fort Erie Community Margaret served as novice mistress, and later as bursar. In 2009 as the Fort Erie Monastery was closing, Margaret was still serving as the community Bursar, at age 88!
The Fort Erie Monastery closed in 2009: Sr. Margaret chose to be incardinated (to technically belong to a canonically erected OSSR-Monastery) in the French speaking community of Sainte-Thérèse, QC. However, since the July 2009 closure, Margaret and two other sisters of the Community have been residing in Toronto. The Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood have an “Assisted Living” facility there – called St. Bernard’s Home, where our sisters receive excellent care.
In 2014, there in St. Bernard’s Home in Toronto, Margaret celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, 60 years of Religious Profession at the age of 93. It was my privilege to be in attendance, to hear Margaret renew her vows in the same strong, audible, crystal clear voice, with which she had pronounced them that very first time so many years ago! It was a fine celebration and a good visit.
Over the years, family had come to visit in our monastery, I met her siblings. During the years Margaret was in Vienna, her younger sister, Anne Fitzgerald, was diagnosed with cancer. As I had occasion to be in Toronto I made it a point to visit Anne before she died. Later, another University friend, Rita McCormick learned of the death of Margaret’s mother. We made plans to attend the funeral, in eastern Ontario, past Trenton, and were joined by two other Redemptoristine sisters who happened to be visiting in Fort Erie at the time. In retirement her brother Tom, was also diagnosed with cancer.
In 2002 Margaret went to Vancouver to be with him. On return, she stopped here in Prince George; together we grieved her loss. Now, there were only two of the Reid siblings left, the eldest sister, Mary, and Margaret.
In the latter part of life Margaret was bothered by a sleep disorder, often seemingly falling asleep while sitting at lectures, community prayer or during a homily. Initially, she denied having any problem! She claimed she was not asleep but merely resting her lowered head and insisted that she had heard everything! Indeed, she hardly ever missed a beat! But progressively, an oxygen mask at night was, “a nuisance I could do without!”
Early in August 2016 I called her for the Feast of St. Alphonsus; she replied with, “I’ve been waiting to talk with you.” She proceeded to tell me of having been taken by a niece to Oshawa to be at the bedside of her sister Mary who died on July 27th. Margaret stayed there with the niece in order to attend the funeral.
Margaret seemed no longer able to dial all the long-distance numbers without getting confused, so she waited till I called her; it was like she needed to talk to someone. After that I called her weekly; this death seemed to be affecting her significantly and she continued to speak of Mary. In our last conversation I asked if she was getting outside to see those beautiful grounds, and get some fresh air. I could, she replied, but I just never seem to get there. It was as though, now at 95, life was beginning to be somewhat taxing. Margaret died in St. Bernard’s Home on September 14, 2016
Margaret’s Redemptoristine life was a life of dedication, in favourable times of adventure and achievement, as also in less favourable times. It was fitting and even one could say a special gift for her, that the Holy Redeemer called her ‘home to her eternal reward’ on September 14th; it is the date of the death of our Foundress, Blessed Maria Celeste (Julia) Crostarosa.
So now, my dear sister and faithful friend, you have been taken down the QEW (highway) one last time. It was so good to know some of our sisters were there for you, …. while I couldn’t so much as water your grave with my tears!
“Pray for me as I shall for thee, ..that we may merrily meet in heaven.” (St. Thomas Moore)