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May 28, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – Sister Mary Margaret “Sis” Beh, OP – formerly known as Sister Ann Pauline – celebrated her 100th birthday today as she desired: simply, in the company of her Sister friends who live in her community at the Dominican Life Center in Adrian, and with the opportunity to speak with distant family members.
Yet, the spirit of celebration extended within and beyond the Adrian Dominican Sisters Motherhouse Campus as she received more than 100 birthday cards from near and far. In the same way, the impact of more than 70 years of Sis’s religious life has been felt by people East and West: from her years of teaching art in the Eastern part of the United States to her years as a hospital chaplain at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, California.
“I have enjoyed my religious life very much,” Sis said in an interview. “It’s been a very special calling that I’ve been grateful for. I wouldn’t change it for anything. Had I chosen another way of living I wouldn’t have had the wonderful opportunities that I had in my life.”
Born in Birmingham, Michigan, on May 27, 1920, she was baptized Mary Margaret Beh after her mother, Margaret Mary. Her two older brothers, Joseph and Robert, found that name too cumbersome and simply called her Sister. In time her name was shortened to “Sis.” She was followed years later by her sister Pauline, for whom she chose her religious name, Sister Ann Pauline.
Sis was educated by Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM Sisters) in elementary school and by Adrian Dominican Sisters at St. Mary High School in Royal Oak, Michigan. After beginning her studies at Siena Heights College (now University) in Adrian, she entered the Adrian Dominican Congregation in January 1939. She holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a Master’s in Fine Arts, both from Siena Heights.
After teaching at the elementary level for seven years, Sis was sent to teach art at Dominican High School in Detroit for 10 years; Regina Dominican High School in Wilmette, Illinois, for a couple of years; Hoban Dominican High School in Cleveland, Ohio, for nine years; and back at Dominican High School for four years. All three schools were sponsored and staffed by the Adrian Dominican Sisters.
Sis found great joy in her ministry as an art teacher. “It’s very exciting to watch young people become creative and find a creative spirit of their own,” she said. “I enjoyed my teaching, watching people become creative and excited about what they were capable of doing.”
After years of teaching, Sis Beh and Sister Jeanne Burns, OP, decided to become hospital chaplains and undertook the year-long Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program to train for this ministry. After earning her CPE certification in Houston, Texas, Sis worked at County Hospital in Houston for a year and began 20 years of ministry as a chaplain at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz: 10 years in a paid position and 10 years as a volunteer.
Sis recalled a conversation with a patient, in which they spoke of God’s love for him. “I realized at that moment that I was loved by God and I never felt like that before or after,” she said. She said serving as chaplain gave her the opportunity to minister one-on-one and to form relationships.
She retired in 2000 at the age of 80, but continued to live in Santa Cruz and to minister as a volunteer. She returned to the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse in 2010 and remained as active as possible ever since.
She has words of advice to anybody who feels he or she might be called to religious life. “Follow your dream,” she said. “If it leads to a religious vocation, honor it, because it is a beautiful life.”
Learn more about Sis’s life in a December 2015 A Sister’s Story interview and in the 2018 video, Ripples of Faith: A Sister's Story.
Sister friends gather in a solarium on their floor in the Dominican Life Center to celebrate the 100th birthday of Sister Mary Margaret “Sis” Beh, OP. Photo by Angie Lieto
May 13, 2020, Maywood, Illinois – The COVID-19 pandemic turned the disciplines of Lent into mandates as the coronavirus forced the entire world to practice isolation and separation and face their fears. That is one aspect of a reflection written by Sister Xiomara Méndez-Hernández, OP, a hospital chaplain at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois. She writes of the suffering that patients – whether or not they had the virus – endured while isolated in the hospital and of the fear that all of the hospital staff face. “For us, the hospital was the place where Lent was practiced every moment,” she writes, but concludes by encouraging readers to take on the hope of Easter.
Read Sister Xiomara’s reflection on life during the pandemic in the newsletter of Giving Voice, a national, peer-led association for younger women religious. Sister Xiomara serves in leadership of Giving Voice as a member of its Core Team.