Sister Margaret Byrnes,
Religious of the Society of the
Sacred Heart of Jesus
By: Dionne D’Sa
A Little bit about Sister Margaret…
Sister Margaret lived in her family home in Wellington Road and
was a member of Holy Name parish for most of her childhood and
She was a member of the choir in her parish – the choir was a member
of the Society of St Gregory and they attended the annual summer
schools with the parish priest, Canon James McNally. On one of those
trips is where she met the Society of the Sacred Heart. She was
walking with the Canon when she mentioned a possible vocation into
religious life. Sister Margaret said to the Canon (as a nun walked
past) “That’s a nice habit to get into!” to which he replied: “You will
be a nun one day!” to which she then said, “Not me. I’m too lively!
My sister, Josephine, perhaps?”
Also at this time Sister Margaret was a member of the Legion of
A little bit more…
Here are a few important dates from Sister Margaret’s Life…
• She entered the Society of the Sacred Heart on 2nd February 1961, in
• She made her first vows on 3rd September 1963
• After her first vows, she was sent to the Convent of the Sacred Heart,
Roehampton, where she remained until September 1968
• In September 1968 she went to Rome to prepare for her final profession
and was professed on 3rd February 1969
• After the profession she was asked by the Superior General to remain in
Rome at the Mother House and be her English speaking secretary and
returned to Roehampton in 1971
A little bit more…
• 1976/7 she had ‘sabbatical’ year
• In 1979 she was part of an organising committee to plan a renewal
course for religious
• Sister Margaret returned to Rome in 1982 to help as a bi-lingual
secretary during our General Chapter at Frascati. As she was so talented
she was asked to return again in 1988 and she remained there until 1992.
• 1996, she was then asked to be part of our House of Prayer community
in Edinburgh where she spent three years, learning new skills - spiritual
accompaniment and pastoral counselling.
• Sister Margaret returned to London, Hayes, where she now lives, in 2001.
She currently works part-time as a chaplain at Heathrow Airport.
Sister Margaret Byrnes will be celebrating 40 years of being
Facts about the Society of the Sacred
The Society of the Sacred Heart was
founded in1800 in Paris, France. St
Madeleine Sophie Barat (left) was the
foundress of the society. She was canonised
The society is an international congregation
with some 4,000 members. The charism is to
spread the love of the Heart of Jesus through
our work of education – universities, colleges,
schools, parish ministry, retreats and spiritual
When did you get
the call from God
to become a nun?
Sister Margaret received the call through someone
else, her friend, when she was at school at around
the age of 14.
Sister Margaret liked going to mass every
morning before school. One day her friend said to
her, ‘You should be a nun.’ This made her think
about it and she then decided to join the Legion Of
Mary, where they prayed together and visited the
sick and needy.
Why did you
want to become
Sister Margaret said this question was difficult to
answer. She said she had to respond to a call from
God – she had no choice!
Sister Margaret explained it like a heartache. It
didn’t go away and it had to be done. Also she
compared it to a marriage vocation, you accept it
because you love the person and you devote your
life to each other, in her case she loved God so
much that she wanted to devote her life to God.
What was your
Sister Margaret’s parents were not really
surprised. They had seen how much she
loved going to mass and her dad even
wanted one of his daughters (Sister
Margaret was one of three) to become a
nun. She said it was expected so that’s why
they weren’t surprised.
What has made
during your life as
Sister Margaret says that having friends and loving people has
made her happiest during her life as a nun. What else makes her
happy is the surprises she receives from God.
She loves helping others and says that we are all called to be foot
washers like Jesus at the last supper and that means that we
should give service to others. Sister Margaret says, ‘Happiness
come from within and the more you give the more happiness you
get.’ Also she says that living life unselfishly and not thinking
about herself makes her happy.
Sister Margaret uses a quote from a book, she had recently read,
that explains her happiness…
‘A Life Poured Out In Love.’
What has been the
scariest thing that has
happened to you
while being a
What makes Sister Margaret scared is going
into new situations and not knowing what
will happen. She uses the examples of when
she had to be a secretary to a General
Superior and the when she had to plan a
renewable course in a mixed community.
Sister Margaret is also scared when she has
to go to a new community and when she is
made to go to places that she hasn’t been
Finally Sister Margaret has a fear like some
of us… she doesn’t like hospitals.
What do you
spend your time
Sister Margaret spends her time praying alone
and praying with others. She says when she
prays to God it is like a loving relationship
because when you are in a relationship you share
everything between each other and that’s what she
does with God.
At the beginning Sister Margaret used to pray by
herself but now she prays with the community, at
the daily mass at the convent, and she also works
at Heathrow airport where she is a Chaplin and
she prays with others there.
What do the vows
of chastity, poverty
and obedience mean
Vow of Poverty: This vow doesn’t mean that Sister
Margaret has nothing it just means that she shares
what she has with the community. For example at the
convent they share a car with the community. They
also don’t have personal bank accounts.
Vow of Chastity: This vow means that Sister
Margaret is in a relationship with God. She is not
allowed relationships but she shares her love with
people in the community.
Vow of Obedience: This vow means that Sister
Margaret has to be obedient to God and seek to do his
will. She has to listen to God and do what he wants.
Why do you think
there are less
vocations now than
Sister Margaret said that when she entered
at 21 to become a nun there wasn’t any
choices like how you get now.
She says that young men and women are
called in different ways because
opportunities have changed. God is still
calling people but they are called to do
different things such as charity work in
other countries. The things what young
people do to answer God’s call are still
Sister Margaret Byrnes will celebrate 40 years of being
a Religious this year…