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El Paso Celebrates Mary Margaret’s Retirement from Villa Maria

Posted on September 2, 2018, by Mary Ann McGivern SL

A Villa Maria resident shares a farewell hug with Mary Margaret Murphy.
Photo from videoclip courtesy of Buffy Boesen)

For 11 years Mary Margaret Murphy has been the caseworker at Villa Maria in El Paso, accompanying and guiding women through transition from homelessness, addiction, mental illness and incarceration to stability and wellness. As she prepared to retire, Villa Maria gave her a party, and the Rio Grande Catholic came to interview her. Mary Marg said, “I think everything I’ve done in my life prepared me for this ministry. The Gospel mandate is to reach out to the poor and to those who have nothing. This was a real call when I came here.”

Mary Marg had worked as a first-grade teacher, a health care caseworker and a community organizer. She went on in the interview to say, “I feel that all of us are called to recognize what our God-given talents are and then to use them to the best of our abilities. I think a lot of what I’ve learned has been from the people I have journeyed with. This has been a place that has called forth my gifts because of the intense needs of the women. I just turn to God and give thanks for the privilege of working with them.

“Many of the women have come from extremely dysfunctional life experiences. Many come to us from jail or prison and have nowhere to go. Many have struggled with addictions to drugs or alcohol and this gives them a chance to heal. Many are victims of domestic violence, things they never thought would happen in their lives. Most of these women have lost control of their lives. Many have lost custody of their children.”

Mary Margaret Murphy, at far right, talks with Villa Maria residents and friends at her farewell gathering.
(Photo courtesy of Buffy Boesen)

Mary Margaret went on in the interview to describe a former resident who “had been through terrible sexual abuse as a young child which led her to numb herself with drugs. Her life had been so difficult and her children never knew what had gone on in her life. She never used drugs in front of them. When she left here she was able to reunite with one of her children who is now in college. She has developed wonderful relationships now with her two girls. The job she had while here at Villa Maria she continues to do. She has her own apartment. She returned to say thank you and would like to come back and do volunteer work. “

At the farewell party, Villa Maria Executive Director Linda Velarde said, “I feel happiness for her [Mary Margaret] that she will now have time to tend her garden and not have to work day and night. I feel anxious that she will not be at my side day after day to help guide me when faced with difficult decisions, and I feel sadness that I won’t see her nurturing smile and be witness to her clever insight into experiences we have faced together. … We will surely miss you, Mary Margaret.”

In response, Mary Margaret said, “During the 11 years Villa Maria has been opened, I as the case manager, have been privileged to welcome ‘home’ to Villa Maria nearly 600 women who were homeless. At times I have had to hold back tears as they shared their unbearable struggles and unbelievable dysfunction. But I have been equally moved by their determination to accomplish their goals, to heal from what brought them homeless and to move from crisis to self-sustainability.”

Mary Ann McGivern SL

Mary Ann McGivern SL

Mary Ann is a member of the board of the Peace Economy Project and chairs Empower Missouri’s Criminal Justice Task Force. Additionally she serves on several Loretto committees. She is an editor of Loretto’s "Interchange" and the St. Louis Catholic Worker’s Round Table. She also writes for the National Catholic Reporter. She has been a Sister of Loretto since 1960.
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