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Lovingly known as “Sr. Margie,” Sr. Margaret Agnes Ferri lived a long, fruitful life according to the Gospel. Her quiet, generous, and peaceful personality characterized her sixty-three years of ministry throughout her life as a Franciscan Sister of the Poor. With the grace of a life well lived and in the presence of many who loved her—a few Sisters with whom she had shared life, her lifelong friend Lany Dunlop, Associate Gerda Shannon, and members of the hospital staff—Sr. Margie entered into new life on June 22, 2015, shortly before her ninety-first birthday. Supported by prayer and compassionate care, Sister slipped into the arms of her Creator.

Marie Editha Maher and Anthony Bernard Ferri created a warm home environment in Charleston, South Carolina, for their six children—four girls and two boys. Margie, born on July 3, 1924, attended the Cathedral Grade School and Bishop England High School. After high school, she spent several years exploring work opportunities and eventually chose to attend the nursing program at the Medical College of South Carolina, graduating in 1945. Margie was hired as an operating room nurse at a hospital near her home in Charleston. At the time, segregation was the norm in the southern states, but Margie, armed with her nursing license and a belief that all God’s people deserved compassionate care, willingly served the sick and the poor, regardless of racial assignments. Passing by hospital waiting areas, Margie always tried to make time to encourage and console families.  

As she continued to practice her nursing skills, Margie experienced a growing desire to devote herself to God as a vowed religious and so began to explore various religious congregations. She chose the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor because of “their simplicity and dedication to the service of the poor.” Margie left her familiar life among family and friends and traveled to Warwick, New York, where she began preparing to give her life over to God on September 6, 1952. When invested with the habit, Margie was given the name Sr. Anthony Marie. At the completion of her initial formation as a novice, Sr. Anthony Marie made her first profession on May 11, 1955, and was assigned to St. Anthony Community Hospital in Warwick where she worked in nursing services. On September 8, 1960, Sr. Anthony Marie made her perpetual profession.

In 1959 a request came from Pope John XXIII through the Vatican Office that religious congregations consider sending missionaries to Central and South America to evangelize the people of those countries. During 1960, an appeal went out to all the SFPs to discern a call to serve the poor in Brazil. On December 10, 1960, Sr. Anthony Marie stood among the group of five Sisters making their way to the new mission. After learning about the Brazilian culture and learning to speak Portuguese, the five Sisters moved to their new home in the Brazilian state of Goias. During the sixteen years Sister spent in Brazil, she worked to improve maternity care for women and young children and facilitated international adoptions. She also served as the formation director for the young women who wanted to serve the poor as Franciscan Sisters. Sister spent a number of years as the leader of the Brazilian Sisters as the Regional Minister. Sr. Margie’s life and work continue to inspire the Sisters of the Brazilian Area.

During the 1977 General Chapter, Sr. Margie (she had returned to her baptismal name) was elected to serve as a member of the general council of the Congregation. The twelve years Sister served in leadership were years of experimentation and transformation within the Congregation. Efforts were made to respond to the directives of the Second Vatican Council, emphasizing the founding charism of the Congregation and rewriting the Constitutions.  Through it all, Sr. Margie remained a faithful servant, showing support and comfort to the Sisters as various changes impacted their lives.

Following her term in leadership, Sr. Margie worked behind the scenes with the SFP Foundation in relationship to the mission. In addition, she engaged with the Sisters living in Warwick, serving as a local minister and finance person. She was an active participant in the local parish, volunteering as a eucharistic minister and making pastoral visits to the homebound. Some of her favorite activities included playing cards and Scrabble and reading books. As the aging process began to limit a more active ministry, she welcomed the opportunity to deepen her prayer life and her relationship with God. She maintained close ties with family members, and just two months prior to her death, attended a family wedding.

Sr. Margie participated actively in the life of the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor through everyday interactions with the Sisters she lived with and by regularly attending assemblies. She served as a delegate to the first General Chapter held in Brazil and was present at the Chapter held in 2013. A woman of wisdom and gentleness, a woman willing to step out of her comfort zone to follow in the footprints of Jesus, Sr. Margie proved to be a faithful friend to many.

Sr. Margie, as we release you to the God you loved so passionately, we ask that you be with us in spirit and that your example continue to inspire us. We thank God for your life among us and for your leadership in our Congregation.

Sr. Arleen Bourquin, SFP

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The following are some testimonials from our Sisters in Brazil who remember Sister Margaret Ferri with great affection:

"She was a very generous person, a person of faith, who always let herself be guided by the Holy Spirit.  She was very balanced in the way she lived her life. - Sister Maria Antonieta Batista

"She was an exemplary person, who possessed so many virtues, and a great heart. She was patient when she taught and open to dialogue.  A compassionate woman who tried to lighten the load of each sister, by listening attentively and encouraging with wise words based on the Word of God and on the life of the Saints” - Sister Maria Bernadete Batista

"She was an active presence in people’s life. I admired the determination of her words, which were filled with love and humanity.”  - Sister Maria Terezinha de Jesus

"I was fascinated with her simplicity and humility.  She was a very kind and good person. Her life was completely dedicated to others. - Sister Lécia da Silva

“I am grateful to have known this Sister who profoundly influenced the life of the Brazilian Area. She was a very special person who planted the seeds of God’s Love wherever she went.” - Sister Thalyta Pereira Lima

“I am grateful for her example of devotion and faithfulness during the many years in which she lived with us in the Brazilian Mission, and for all of the good that she accomplished on this earth.” - Sister Helena Paula Carvalho

“GRATITUDE.  This is the most suitable word as we are remembering our sister, who was a faithful, loving, friendly, brave and bold woman. She embodied that type of faith which could move mountains. She worked continuously to overcome every difficulty with so much hope, and she was always capable of communicating this energy to those around her.” - Sister Tânia Maria Rebeiro Machado

“Sister Antonia, as we affectionately called her in Brazil, was a pioneer, a woman of immense courage: in 1960 she left her homeland, to come to Goiás, a distant and abandoned land.
Already back then she was prophetically living our chapter call to “leave our safety zones”: she was a person with a heart of gold, always ready to serve anyone, anywhere, even in high-risk places, all in order to serve and save people.
I experienced the grace of sharing a lasting friendship with her and, in her wisdom, she offered me so much guidance. She encouraged me to live with hope, not to cultivate hate and resentment, but to choose obedience and sacrifice. I miss her presence, but I am certain that she will continue to guide us from our Father’s house” - Sister Maria Helena Carvalho

Here, below, is Sr. Marilyn’s testimonial, in which she remembers what she shared with Sr. Margie in the final moments of her life:

“In her last days on this earth, Margie, in being faithful to her walk in faith, charged me with a mission she had come to know through a deep inner experience. Fully conscious, with her eyes wide open, her voice strong and her words firm, Margie gave me an assigned mission for the future:

Behold this incredibly beautiful Child with a beauty beyond belief.
This Child awaits you.
This Child wants to come anew into our world.
This Child is needed to come into our very troubled world today.
In order for the Child to be born anew, you must carry in your heart, body, and soul with every fiber of your being the love of Jesus.
Only those with the love of Jesus will be able to give birth to the  Child.
With every fiber of your being, you need to carry the love of Jesus.
It will not be easy. You will know suffering, but the love of Jesus will carry you.
The love of Jesus will carry you.

In loving memory of Margie, let us now be united in this mission.
Let us strive to live this mission that has been given to all of us, knowing that we, like Margie, walk by faith and not by sight.
May the love of Jesus carry us always!” - Sr. Marilyn Trowbridge

Published: August 25, 2015