Margaret was born on May 17, 1937 in Cleveland Heights, Ohio to Patrick and Delia (Henderson) Friel. She and her younger brother Patrick grew up in a family characterized by deep faith and appreciation for their Irish heritage. Margaret’s education at St. Gregory and St. Margaret Mary School, and high school years at Notre Dame Academy, Cleveland, led her to hear and accept God’s call to religious life. She became a postulant on February 2, 1956, and at investment received the name Sister Mary John Patrick.
Sister Margaret earned a Bachelor of Science in education at St. John College, Cleveland, and a Master of Arts in religious education from Notre Dame Institute, Middleburg, Virginia. Most of her educational ministry—more than 60 years—was spent in the delightful company of primary grade and pre-school children. Her energy was a match for theirs. She taught in 11 different schools between 1957 and 1996, in Cleveland, Eastlake, Elyria, Euclid, Highland Heights, Independence, South Euclid, and University Heights. “The little ones bring me closer to God through their simplicity, innocence, wonder, and awe,” she said.
The next year, and for 18 years following, she ministered as director or assistant director of Early Childhood Learning Centers at St. Therese in Wilson, North Carolina; St. Basil Campus in Brecksville, and Notre Dame Elementary Preschool, Chardon. Sister Margaret was instrumental in integrating quality pre-school programs into Catholic elementary schools. One parent described Sister Margaret as “the perfect mix of intelligence and fun, showing the kids how to grow into their newly found abilities…they are interested, stimulated, and excited about learning.” Time was devoted not only to language arts and math, but also to a world-view that broadened their experience and planted seeds of peace and justice. Pre-schoolers filled backpacks for students affected by Hurricane Katrina, and after seeing photos of children at home and in school in Honduras, a little boy asked if he was old enough to volunteer as a helper.
In 2010 she traveled to Ireland for a renewal program, and met her father’s cousins and family members in County Donegal with whom she had corresponded throughout her life. After several years as a tutor at ND Skills Lab and the Legacy Project, Sister Margaret assisted the Pastoral Care Team and the Activities Department in the Health Care Center. For the past six years in the Mission Advancement Office, Sister Margaret established and maintained a personal connection with donors, making hundreds of thank you calls and writing thousands of birthday cards. Sister Margaret lived as a disciple of Jesus, whose mission was to see Jesus in everyone she met, every day.
The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, July 29, 2022, at the Sisters of Notre Dame Center, 13000 Auburn Road, Chardon, OH. It will be live-streamed. Go to www.sndusa.org. Click on the Chardon Regional Center. Visitation will be from 9:30-10:15.