Sister Margaret Ann (Mollie) was born Margaret Mary McGrath in the East End of London in 1926. She had two sisters, Patricia and Lily, who predeceased her, and one brother, Bill. She was educated in Notre Dame School in Southwark. During World War II she joined the Land Army. This was a civilian organisation created during the First and Second World Wars so women could work in agriculture, replacing men called up to the military. They picked crops and did all the jobs that the men would do. In recent years Margaret Ann received an award from the British government in recognition of her contribution. When the war ended she was employed by the Bank of England.
Active in her parish in Clockinwell Road, London, she was a member of the Children of Mary. She learned about MMM while perusing a missionary magazine. She saw a photo of Sisters in the MMM habit and thought, ‘They look smart!’ Then she learned that the sister of Jack, a business friend, was Grace Carroll’s mother. Grace lived just outside Drogheda and was a very good friend of Mother Mary. She gave great support to MMM. Subsequently Margaret Ann met Mother Mary in London and Mother encouraged her to join ‘straightaway’, which she did in 1951.
After profession she worked in the reception area of the International Missionary Training Hospital, now Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, for fourteen years. It was a very busy time in the growing hospital and Margaret Ann excelled in greeting and reassuring the many patients, family members and visitors who looked for help. In 1965 she was assigned to manage the auditorium, which was used for a wide variety of performances. In 1968 she went to Sion Hill in Dublin to train in household management. She returned to Drogheda in 1969 and served for two years in local MMM leadership. She occasionally helped Mother Mary as her secretary and accompanied her on journeys around Ireland.
Sister Margaret Ann was assigned to Uganda in 1972 and served for two years in the social training centre in Masaka. There young people received training in a variety of activities such as farming, building, first aid, and home-making.
In 1976 she returned to England and did vocation promotion work, based in Ealing, London. She was one of the founding members of our house there, with Sister Gertrude Davis. From 1981 to 1986 she was director of the National Vocations Centre in London. She went to the USA in 1986 and helped with mission awareness. After attending a course, Active Spirituality for the Global Community, she became an associate member of NETWORK: Catholic Social Justice Lobby, based in Washington, DC.
Mollie returned to England in 1989 and lived in Romiley, in Greater Manchester, for eighteen years. She became involved in a variety of activities. She worked with Churches Together in Britain and Ireland and organised Christian Missionary conferences in London. She was a trustee on the Board of the Catholic Students International Chaplaincy. In 2007 she began a part-time telephone listening ministry and was involved with the Christian Community Movement in her parish. Margaret Ann also did mission awareness work. She had a special interest in our MMM work in Malawi and kept in contact with friends who supported our mission in Chipini.
She also worked on the committee that prepared for the visit of Pope John Paul II to England in 1982.
Margaret Ann was a dynamic woman and a great organiser. She could sum up situations very quickly and was decisive and eloquent. She was also a woman of prayer.
Mollie suffered from deteriorating health and she moved to Ireland in 2017. She was lovingly cared for by the Sisters and staff in Áras Mhuire. She died there peacefully on 2 June 2019, on the solemnity of the Ascension, supported by the staff and some MMMs.
Appropriately her funeral was held on the feast of the Ugandan Martyrs. Father Barry Matthews was the main celebrant at the Mass, accompanied by Fathers Arkadiusz, SMA, and Pat Kelly, SPS, chaplain to Áras Mhuire. Her sister-in-law Mary took some of the Mass leaflets home to Romily to use in the Mass there, celebrated for the people who knew and supported her so well.