Sister Margie Hosch goes for the gold

GREENVILLE — When 18-year-old Margie Hosch entered a Franciscan convent in Dubuque, Iowa, in June 1954, her younger sister was surprised because she was so popular as a youth. But she was the second of eight Hosch children to become a nun and that was just what the family wanted.

“Everybody was so proud of Margie,” said her sister Ann Salamone. “She was a tough act to follow.”

And people have been following Sister Hosch ever since — probably because no one can keep up with her for long. Her colleague at Catholic Charities, who joined the Diocese of Charleston at the same time in 1997, is Sister Pat Keating, a Dominican. Sister Keating has seen her Franciscan friend operate since then and is awestruck by her capacity for work and ingenuity.

“She has more energy and enthusiasm than any person I’ve ever met. Margie is very creative also, and when she gets an idea, she gets everyone around her excited about it,” Sister Keating said.

Sister Hosch’s latest idea was the Gallivan Center, a collaborative effort among social ministries in the Upstate that came to fruition last month with the dedication of its office complex. The building houses Catholic Charities, Mercy Outreach, St. Francis Hospital System and St. Anthony of Padua Church and School, all diverse agencies with the common goal of serving the poor. Getting the Gallivan Center on line was one of the highlights of Sister Margie Hosch’s career as a professed religious sister.

“This has been one of the three peak experiences of my vocation,” the jubilarian sister said. “This way, we can be so much more effective in serving the poor. That’s been so easy for me over the years in the context of my Franciscan sisters, and I’ve learned that working in a collaborative way helps.”

Easy or not, serving the poor has been Sister Hosch’s life’s work. The other accomplishments that mark the milestones of that career include a time in a Minnesota parish just after the Second Vatican Council when she initiated a program of catechesis for parents. The parents went home and prepared their own children for the sacraments. It was an innovative approach to Christian formation, and it worked.

And there was the time in this diocese when Sister Hosch initiated the Poverella Program during the federal government’s cutback on assistance programs, setting up teams in parishes to prepare people coming off welfare to become self-sufficient.

“Margie always had this much ambition,” Salamone said.

Norma Pierson, the administrative assistant at Catholic Charities in the Upstate, has worked closely with the jubilarian for nine years. One defining attribute of Sister Hosch, according to Pierson, is that she is always upbeat. That comes naturally to the sister because she chose the right religious vocation 50 years ago.

“I could not have had a more exciting or fulfilling life, so far. Jesus just speaks to me out of the Scripture and the Spirit has brought me close to the mission and person of Jesus,” Sister Hosch said.

She said that retirement has not even edged onto her radar screen yet, mostly because, in her view, the most exciting part of a religious life in the Catholic Church is just beginning.

“I feel the Spirit moving strongly among the laity,” she said. “Our hope for the church lays in the dedication of the laity, as the church truly becomes the people of God.”

Bishop Robert J. Baker sent his blessing to Sister Hosch. He  said: “On behalf of all Catholics in the Upstate and in the diocese, we join in thanking her and congratulating her on her golden anniversary as a religious sister.”