Leaving Home for the First Time

Leaving Home for the First Time

by Sr. Margaret Anne Meyer  MMM          U.S.A.            26.09.2022

“It is almost March first.” My mother used to sing me these words from the song, “It is almost tomorrow.” We would pause and look at each other. Yes, with a little mix of sorrow as well as adventure. March first,1956, was the day chosen for me to enter the Medical Missionaries of Mary. I had just graduated from high school on January 31st so had some time to relax and visit relatives to say goodbye. It came all too fast.

I went with my father to 6am Mass as was his custom during Lent. After breakfast, we all piled into the car and Daddy drove Mom and us four children to Grand Central Station in New York City so I could get the train to Boston more than two hundred miles away. I was grateful that all let me go. It was not until later years did, I realize the stress and sorrow I had placed on each one. My younger brother Albert who was seven and ten years my junior had been the baby I cared for since he was born. He told my mother I had abandoned him. My sister Gerry no longer had an older sister to confide in and David, six years younger did not say much but in later years has always acted as an older brother to me and is very solicitous for my welfare. In fact, all my siblings are very welcoming to me in their homes. My father thought he was a failure in that he did not have enough money to give me happiness in life, so I was seeking it in the convent. It took him nine years to understand that I was happy in what I had chosen. That is for another story. My mother wanted me to be happy although I could see the sadness in her eyes.  My Father’s last words were, “The minute you do not like it, just tell me. and I will take you home.”  We all kissed and hugged each other before I boarded the train.

During the four hours ride to Boston, I had time to recall what led up to this big step in my life of leaving home. In 1954 there had been a beautiful picture of the Blessed Mother in the Diocesan paper. Underneath was a caption, “Are you a Marian Year Vocation?” I did not think so. I wanted to be a nurse and a mother someday. Then, a few months later, two Medical Missionaries of Mary came to my High School and talked about a vocation to MMM. They showed a film, Visitation, which I thought was delightful. The Blessed Mother inspired sisters to go to Africa and care for those with Hansen’s disease, help women having babies and cared for orphans. The mother superior waved the medical students off as they rode their bicycles to the university. Everything looked so human and gentle. The Sisters, themselves seemed to have a shimmering glow exuding from their lovely smiles. I learned later that these Sisters were Theresa Conolly and Magdalene O’Rourke. What they said still echoes in my heart and I told my parents that evening too, and they liked the message as well. My mother told me from then on, she said the Act of Contrition in pidgin English every time she went to Confession. “O God I too sorry for the bad things I do I never do them again.” My Father told me he could say the Golden Hail Mary without distractions as the Sisters had urged us to do daily. I like the story of the Sister who washed her habit and put it on the line. It was gone when she went for it. The next day one of the leprosy patients had a gray bolero and shorts which were made from her habit. We all laughed.

After the assembly, the principal saw me passing by and said to me,” Margaret, wouldn’t you like to be a missionary? “I got such a fright I ran out of the building and went to a Legion of Mary meeting. When it was over, I avoided the short route through the auditorium and went the long way to avoid any chance of meeting the Sisters.
I tried to get the whole experience out of my head. I was dating and liked the fellow very much; I wanted to be a nurse and have children. However, I kept the pamphlet with their information and eventually I knew that I had to try it, or I would never be able to live with myself. I remember the peace that came over me when I finally said yes to Jesus’ call and asked my mother if I could write for an interview. She said “Yes, go ahead.” After posting the letter, I prayed that they would tell me I was too young. But no, the return letter was an open invitation for me to visit Winchester, Boston and bring my family with me. All agreed to go except my Sister, Gerry who did not want to go near any nun in case they got her too. We really did have an enjoyable time in Winchester, and I made an application to enter after high school.

It seemed like no time that the train pulled into Boston station and Sr. Madeleine Leblanc met me and took me to Winchester. I finally arrived and that is a beginning of another story.