sister margaret mary gregg

(S. Margaret James)
May 29, 1940 - December 19, 2015
Faithful friend, clear thinker, not afraid to speak her opinion, kind  


Mary Madeline Gregg was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to Ralph and Philomena (Aliperti) Gregg on May 29, 1940. Mary Madeline could easily have missed her arrival on this Earth. After many long hours in labor, her mother was dying of toxic poisoning. The doctor told Ralph that if he removed the dead baby, he might be able to save his wife. Hours later, when he informed Ralph that he thought his wife would make it, he forgot to mention that the baby was alive. It was quite a surprise when some time later he returned to deliver the news to Ralph that he had a daughter. Mother and daughter’s survival was attributed to an experimental drug called penicillin, a drug not widely in use until 1945.
During WWII, her dad was drafted. He returned home physically unharmed but had become an alcoholic. Eventually her parents divorced (they remarried in 1964). Her mom worked as a bookkeeper to support her daughter and herself. Mary met the Sisters of St. Joseph at St. Rita’s Parish where she attended school from kindergarten through fifth grade. She and her mom moved in with an aunt in Holy Ghost Parish for the rest of her elementary school years and then Mary enrolled in Aquinas High School. However the buildings had not yet been built so the freshmen students’ classes were in a make-shift set-up in what was formerly Sacred Heart Elementary School. Moving into the new buildings the next year fell through when the campus wasn’t ready. Mary ended up going to Mercy High School.
She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on September 15, 1958, and was received as Sister Margaret James in March 1959. Her bachelor’s degree in elementary education was awarded from Fontbonne College, St. Louis, 1963. She received a master's degree in special education from Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, 1973. 
S. Margaret’s first teaching assignment was at St. Peter Grade School, Marquette, Michigan, 1963. Sister Margaret returned to Missouri to teach at Holy Guardian Angels (1967), and at Nativity of Our Lord (1968). In 1973, she was appointed principal and director of education at the Village of St. Joseph, Atlanta, Georgia. Then, in 1977, Sister Margaret was invited to participate in a new Jesuit Living and Learning Program. She served as a teacher, national coordinator (1979), and national field director (1980).
Following a sabbatical at Weston School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, S. Margaret was appointed executive director at St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf in University City, Missouri (1985). In 1989, she became principal at St. Joseph's Home for Boys in St. Louis. Sister Rose Stephen Cento was with S. Margaret there. S. Rose remembers her often telling the boys, "I say what I mean and I mean what I say,” yet also describes her as “always firm, but kind.” 
Responding to a call to serve in a different capacity, 
S. Margaret became the president/executive director at Concern for the Poor, Inc. in San Jose, California (1992). In 2000 she was the homeless service coordinator for Santa Clara County, and, in 2007, coordinator of church relations at Family Support Housing. She was passionate about helping the poor: “We have to even out the economy. Every single person has to have basic needs met, food, shelter, clothing. They can’t be worried about it every minute of the day.” 
S. Margaret returned to St. Louis in 2012 where she worked at Nazareth Living Center as Community Life bookkeeper until illness intervened. She fought her cancer in the way she lived her life, with humor, dignity and courage.
S. Helen Oates
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