In Conversation with … Mother Superior, Sister Marguerite Mae

Sister Marguerite Mae is the first Canadian to serve as Mother Superior of the Community of the Sisters of the Church (CSC) since its founding in England in 1870. She was elected the 10th Mother Superior of CSC in October 2018 and is the religious order’s international leader. On Saturday, December 1, 2018, in Christ’s Church Cathedral Hamilton, there was a celebration and blessing of her new ministry.

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Mother Superior Marguerite Mae. Photo Hollis Hiscock

The Niagara Anglican con-versed with the new Mother Superior to give our readers an insight into the life, profession and ministry of an Anglican nun.

Niagara Anglican (NA): Tell us a little about your life’s journey.

Sister Marguerite Mae (SMM): I was born in Brockville, Ontario and stayed there until I went to Trinity College. After a master’s degree in Library Science at the University of Toronto, I worked for several years in the library at St. Mildred’s–Lightbourn School in Oakville before joining the Community of the Sisters of the Church there in 1977. 

In 1978, Dean Joachim Fricker and Canon John Rathbone officiated at my clothing in Oakville  as a novice. In 1980 I went to our main house in England for further training for five months. I did not actually return to live in Canada for 23 years! 

In England, I worked in one of our children’s homes in Broadstairs, volunteered for ten years at the Mildmay Hospital working with children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, worked as a library assistant in the patients’ library at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, and as a public librarian working with children in the borough of Harrow. 

Just after my life profession in England in 1985 I was made archivist for the Community worldwide. I returned to Oakville in 2003 and served two terms as Sister Provincial here in Canada. 

In 2010, while on sabbatical, I was asked to fill in for one of our Sisters working as a lay chaplain to the staff at Westminster Abbey. I had three years there, off and on, which was a great privilege. 

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After accepting and confirming her appointment as Mother Superior, Bishop Susan Bell anointed Sister Marguerite Mae with oil signifying her election as the leader of the Community of the Sisters of the Church. Later Dean Peter Wall presented her with a Bible with this hope, “may the word of God continue to guide and inspire the Community and its Associates”.  Photo: Hollis Hiscock

NA: Tell us about CSCwhere the sisters are and what they do.

SMM: The Community of the Sisters of the Church was founded in Kilburn (London) England in 1870 by Emily Ayckbowm.

In 1890 the Sisters came to Canada and were involved in education and social outreach. The Sisters went out to various parts of the globe in the ensuing years.

Today there are Sisters living in Australia, Canada, England and the Solomon Islands. 

Although most of the schools founded by the Community still continue, the Sisters now are mainly engaged in hospitality, social outreach, preaching and leading retreats, spiritual direction and lay chaplaincy. 

Four of our ordained Sisters work in parish ministry. 

The largest Province of the Community is the Solomon Islands-Pacific Province, where they are engaged in mission outreach, work with at risk women and children, education and running a retreat house. 

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The Sisterhood of St. John the Divine, the Order of the Holy Cross Toronto, the Oratory of the Good Shepherd, Associates and friends joined the Community of the Sisters of the Church for the blessing of incoming Mother Superior, Sister Marguerite Mae, and “for helping us to raise the profile of the religious life in this part of the Anglican Community”. Photo: Hollis Hiscock

NA: How were you chosen Mother Superior?

SMM: In October 2018 I was elected as Mother Superior of our Community by all the junior and life professed Sisters in the four Provinces. It is the first time in our history a Mother Superior has been elected who is not also a Sister Provincial.

NA: What is your role as Mother Superior?

SMM: My role as Mother Superior is to guide and lead the Community in accordance with the spirit and letter of the Rule and Constitution. 

I have a duty of spiritual and pastoral care for the Sisters and responsibility for fostering unity among the Provinces.

I act as president of our General Chapter meetings and represent the Community at the international level when necessary. 

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Sister Linda Mary (left), who served as Mother Superior since 2009, presented incoming Mother Superior Marguerite Mae with copies of the Community’s Rules and Constitution as symbols of her new ministry. Photo: Hollis Hiscock

NA: How do you carry out your duties as Mother Superior?

SMM: My duties are carried out by praying, visiting the Provinces, talking with the Sisters, and by phone, email and letter in between visits. As well I communicate with Associates, friends and people who are in the care of the Community. 

NA: As a Sister in the Anglican Church, any thoughts about its present situation or message for the average person in the pew?

SMM: Being in an international Anglican community provides a wider perspective on the joys and challenges of being an Anglican in the 21st century. It is a great help personally to know that prayer is going on at all times of the day and night somewhere in the world.

NA: Is there anything else you wish to share?

SMM: In 2020 we will be celebrating 150 years of the Community of the Sisters of the Church and 50 years in the Solomon Islands. To God be the glory!

NA: Every blessing as CSC continues its mission and ministry in God’s world.

For more information about or to contact the Community of the Sisters of the Church go to sistersofthechurch.org or read “the Anglican nun story” (Niagara Anglican, November 2015 at niagaraanglican.ca/newspaper).

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Sister Heather, CSC’s Canada Provincial, cuts the New Year’s Eve cake. The next day, Advent Sunday, the first day of the Church’s year, is when the Community sisters traditionally renew their vows. Photo: Hollis Hiscock