THE MOORISH ORTHODOX CHURCH OF AMERICA
THE MOORISH ORTHODOX CHURCH OF AMERICA
DIOCESE OF NEW JERSEY
CathEdral Church of Saints Sergius & Bakkhus
Ong's Hat Road
Pemberton, New Jersey USA 08068
 
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PRESS RELEASE - For Immediate Release
February 2nd, 2002 - 12:00PM (EST)
Feast of Saint Walphurga
 

It was announced this morning by the Rt. Rev. Dr. Sotemohk Beeyayelel, Bishop of the Moorish Orthodox Church's Diocese of New Jersey, that Margaret Anne Cusack of Kenmare, Ireland, a 19th century nun and social reformer was to be canonized a Saint by the Moorish Orthodox Church on the Spring Equinox (March 21, 2003) thereafter to be known as "Saint Margaret of Kenmare."

 

The prospective saint (known to her contemporaries as the "Mad Nun of Kenmare") was born on May 6th, 1829 and passed into heavenly rest on June 7, 1899, aged seventy years, one month and one day. Her Feast-Day is to be May 6th of the  Moorish Orthodox calendar, and she is given the assignation of patron saint of feminism, women's education, labor and public health.

 

Margaret, who by happenstance is the great-great-great aunt of Bishop Sotemohk, was a gifted writer as well as a devout monastic and toiler for equal rights and social reform.

 

During her first 15 years at Kenmare, Margaret wrote and published spiritual works, biographies of saints, and histories of Ireland. By 1870, more than 200,000 copies of her works had circulated throughout the world. Profits from the sale of books were used for work with the poor.

 

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Margaret shifted the focus of her writing from research to reform. She then directed her words at those persons and institutions which were obstructing justice for the people of Ireland during the Famine of 1879. As "The Mad Nun of Kenmare," she became a symbol of liberation and simultaneously incurred the strong disapproval of Church and political leaders. Her involvement with the Irish Land League brought strong disapproval from

prominent clergymen. When her famine relief fund was forced to close, she decided it was time to leave Kenmare. She moved to Knock, County Mayo, with the idea of expanding the ministry of the Poor Clares (the religious order to which she was then attached) to include a school for young women in the west of Ireland. Instead, she decided to found her own community, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace.

 

Continued conflict in Knock with Church leaders led Margaret to seek support in England. Under Cardinal Manning and Bishop Bagshawe, she received approbation for the new religious order from Pope Leo XIII and the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace was founded in January, 1884, in the Diocese of Nottingham, England.

 

Later, Margaret Anna traveled to the United States to continue the education of immigrant Irish women but was immediately rebuked by Archbishop Corrigan of New York. Just at that time, New Jersey stretched out a hand of welcome and encouragement as Bishop Wigger of the Diocese of Newark invited her to establish homes for young Irish working women there. She claimed that because of Archbishop Corrigan's

criticism of her among bishops throughout the United States, the work of her new community could not continue as long as she remained with them.

 

Physically exhausted, sick and disillusioned with a  patriarchal Church, Margaret Anna Cusack withdrew from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace and left behind the Sisters she so dearly loved. She eventually returned to England and her ecumenical affiliations. In later years, she kept in contact with the Sisters and expressed a loving concern for them, though she formally apostasized from Roman Catholicism had had converted to the Methodist Church by that time. She died, June 5, 1899 and was buried in the cemetery reserved for the Church of England (she was born and raised

as an Anglican) at Leamington, England.

 

Continuing the work started by Margaret, Sister Evangelista Gaffney was elected Superior-General of the order to lead the new congregation in 1888. In 1891 St. Joseph Hospital, Bellingham, Washington was added to works already introduced in England and the United States. Margaret Cusack's emphasis on human rights, especially women's rights, continues to impact the future direction of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace as vowed members and women and men associates seek to realize the visions of Margaret Cusack.

 

The elevation of Margaret Cusack to Sainthood is the first instance of a contemporary Roman Catholic being canonized by the Moorish Orthodox Church.

 

Speaking of his ancestor, Bishop Sotemohk concluded that “Margaret's life of service is emblematic of the Christian ideal of 'agape' - love of the other, and of the Islamic conception of 'jihad' - the struggle for righteousness and justice.  Given the historic connection between Ireland and the Moorish people, I can think of no more fitting a

personage for Moorish Orthodox faithful to emulate."

 

For further or more detailed information on the Moorish Orthodox Church's Diocese of New Jersey please consult the website located at http://come.to/moorishorthodoxy.  For detailed information on the life and work of Margaret Cusack, please visit the website located at http://www.csjp.org/history.html

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Press Information Office, Diocese of New Jersey, M.O.C.A.

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