GREENVILLE — Franciscan Sister Margie Hosch is known around the Upstate as a tireless worker for the poor and troubled, as someone who reaches out to help everyone from lonely seniors to hurricane survivors.
She has stepped down after 11 years as regional coordinator for Catholic Charities in the Piedmont Deanery, but community members say her impact on the community will be felt for many years to come.
“She epitomizes the word ‘Catholic’ in the sense of it meaning universal,” said Franciscan Father Patrick Tuttle, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Greenville. “She really believes that all people are God’s people and our tradition has something to offer them. Sister Margie truly believes that there is something to gain from being connected with people in helping the poor, and that together we can do so much more than apart. She also has an uncanny ability to bring someone into the office in terrible distress and have them leave with a sense of dignity and hope.”
Friends and coworkers held a recognition dinner for Sister Margie Aug. 12 in Greenville. More than 150 people attended and several guest speakers testified to the sister’s dedication in working to help fulfill a wide variety of needs in the Upstate.
Since arriving in the area in 1996, Sister Margie has provided counseling and assistance to victims of domestic abuse, the poor, immigrants, senior citizens, disaster victims and the bereaved. She also has worked to bring Catholics and members of other denominations together in the common cause of helping the needy through the Upstate Catholic Collaborative and other efforts.
“My vision of my work with Catholic Charities was that there eventually be no more poor among us,” Sister Margie said in a recent interview with The Miscellany. “I really wanted to form a bridge between those with material advantages and those who are poor. There is a great conversion that happens in people’s hearts when they reach out to help the poor.”
Among the programs she developed were Poverella, which matched sponsors with people coming off welfare; Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, a support group for senior citizens suddenly faced with raising small children; In Safe Keeping, a program dedicated to raising awareness of domestic violence and training clergy and lay volunteers how to deal with the needs of domestic violence victims in parishes; and Save a Smile, which provides dental care for needy adults.
“I decided to start that one after I met a woman who wouldn’t take her hands away from her mouth because all of her upper teeth had been pulled,” Sister Margie said.
Father Tuttle believes one of her most important achievements was helping to open the Gallivan Center for Catholic Social Ministry in Greenville in 2004.
“The center has really become an oasis both for people who fall through the cracks and for people who want to see their dollars translated into direct service for people most in need,” he said.
Sister Margie was instrumental in starting Greenville Faith Communities United, an interfaith group that works together to address various needs of the poor in the area.
“I’m really amazed at the number of people we were able to gather into a community working together, like a new Pentecost,” she said. “Everybody was coming from their own land, their own parish, their own experience, but we learned that we all understood one another if we focused on the poor. The poor will gather us together.”
The sister also was one of the first people who reached out to Mary Mujahid, a Katrina survivor who came to Greenville from New Orleans in early September 2005.
“She was working the night shift at the evacuee center in Greenville and she would come every night and sit down on the floor next to me and just listen to what I had to say,” Mujahid said. “We were all in shock, and that was better than a dose of medicine. It was like she was there just for me.”
Mujahid said Sister Margie stayed in touch with her after she left the evacuee center and helped her to find housing. Now Mujahid, who retired after 29 years teaching in New Orleans public schools, teaches third- and fourth-grade students at St. Anthony of Padua School.
“I see Sister Margie as an angel on God’s earth from what I’ve observed,” Mujahid said. “She loves all people. She extends her love, her patience, her kindness and her heart to them with open arms.”
Sister Margie hopes that her work has made more people aware of the issue of poverty and motivated them to help the less fortunate.
“I would really tell people to get to know the names of the poor — to know the poor is to love them,” she said. “My effort for the last eleven years has been to do the bridge-building so that the poor will be less poor and the rich will be more generous.”
Sister Margie will continue to live in the Greenville area and work on a variety of spiritual and social projects.