By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published July 9, 2020
ATHENS—Mainstays of the Catholic community in Athens have moved on to new ministries.
In June, Sister Margarita Martin and Sister Marietta Jansen, members of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus religious community, said their goodbyes after 18 years. Sister Barbara Daniel, of the Missionary Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, retired from the Catholic Center at the University of Georgia.
Sister Margarita, who served in Georgia for 35 years, said she left “thanking God for the beautiful privilege” of serving families. She served at Atlanta’s Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital for many years aiding Spanish-speaking patients and as a chaplain.
“We have been involved in just about anything and everything in civic life,” she said.
The three sisters were guests of honor at a farewell parade at the Catholic Center on Sunday, June 7.
Sister Marietta returned to the motherhouse of the community near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Sister Margarita moved to Miami. She is exploring how the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus can serve people on the margins in south Florida.
In 2002, they started Oasis Católico Santa Rafaela as an outreach ministry in a mobile home park. Their double-wide trailer convent doubled as the community center before the crush of youngsters and families outgrew it. A small building nearby was converted into classrooms. This community hub draws some 200 students a semester from the University of Georgia as tutors.
It began when a teen asked Sister Margarita if a ministry could be developed where immigrants could feel loved, welcomed and appreciated.
The mission was to pitch our tent in the midst of the need, she said.
The immigrants and families strengthened her faith as they faced their hardships, said Sister Margarita.
“Mexicans have a deep faith. God above all,” said the sister, who entered religious life in 1962 in her native Spain.
Sister Margarita’s work over the years was recognized by many civic groups, including the Athens Area Human Relations Council, East Georgia Chapter of the American Red Cross, the Emancipation Proclamation and Pioneer Awards Observance.
Sisters of Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus continue to serve in Athens.
Sister Barbara Daniels, MSC, has served as the sacramental coordinator at the university’s Catholic Center since 2012. She also led a women’s Bible study.
Sister Barbara marked her 50th year in religious life in 2018. In an interview with The Georgia Bulletin, she said God still calls 21st century women to religious life who want to devote total energies to the Gospel.
“It’s our prayer, our example, the life we lead, the witness we give. It’s multifaceted, not just what we do,” she said. “It’s how much can I give of my time and talent to the mission of the church, the mission of Christ.”