Margaret Mary was the youngest of five children born to John and Mary (Biaggio) Per in Cleveland, Ohio. Her sister Mary, the firstborn, died in infancy. Her brother John died of pneumonia at age 5. St. Vitus Parish, and relatives & friends in the Slovenian neighborhood were a source of comfort to her family. Margaret loved the simple joys of daily life: singing in three-part harmony with her sisters Jean and Valerie, playing games, and Sunday walks to parks and parish socials. At St. Vitus School, Margaret’s eighth grade teacher encouraged her to enter the high school Aspirant program at Ansel Road. Margaret’s “maybe” become “yes” the night before she left home. In her autobiography, she writes, “I surrendered myself to Jesus, saying that just in case I didn’t have a religious vocation, he had better give me one. After that I was perfectly at peace…I knew I belonged at Notre Dame.” Margaret entered the novitiate on February 2, 1953, and at investment received the name Sister Mary Valerie Jean, in honor of her sisters.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from St. John College, Cleveland, and a master’s from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. She taught middle grades and junior high for 24 years in parish schools in Canton, Massillon, Chardon, Eastlake, Lyndhurst and Gates Mills. In Cleveland, she ministered at Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, St. Stephen, St. Joseph Franciscan, and Holy Redeemer parish schools. She also had an Advanced Catechetical Diploma from Notre Dame Institute, Middleburg, VA, and was a Pastoral Minister at Sacred Heart Parish in Winchester, VA. In service to the community, Sister Margaret was an infirmary aide in the Health Care Center for ten years.
Artistic and creative, Sister Margaret crafted many items for the annual Barbecue/Boutique. She wrote poems and computerized them as cards or in decorative frames —selling hundreds of these over the years. She learned the art of stained glass, producing individual sun-catchers as well as unique Nativity sets. In 1994, she even ventured into woodworking, guided by our master carpenter Jack Wadowick. She cut and assembled wooden napkin holders, and painted designs on all the magazine baskets and bird feeders that Jack had made.
The past 11 years were devoted to prayer, presence, and praise, as Sister Margaret experienced a decline in strength. “The image of the cross,” she said, “enshrines what is dearest to my heart…in times of joy and sorrow.” She found meaning in nature: the bird’s song– awakening her to new life; the acorn– from the tree planted near running streams. And when times were dark and she was afraid, she asked for someone to be with her, to wait with her. Now we celebrate what Sister Margaret lived and longed for: the moment of transformation “like the butterfly, symbol of Christ’s resurrection, and mine!”
The Mass of Christian Burial will be on Friday, October 20, at 10:30 a.m. Visitation will be from 9:30-10:15. Mass will be live-streamed. Go to www.sndusa.org. Click on the Chardon Regional Center.
To make a gift in memory of Sr. Margaret Mary Per, please click here.