Franciscan Sisters Join in Farewell

The term Saint has been applied to the two Sisters who passed away this week in  Durant, MS. The root word of “saint” is Sanctus which means holy. To live a holy life is to do what Jesus asks of us: to live the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. Mercy was what these two Sisters lived as they ministered to the people of Holmes County. The ministries of Sisters Paula and Margaret and the Franciscan Sisters of St. Francis in Greenwood would at times cross and mingle. It was only natural then, that we would want to honor these Sisters with our presence at the wake service at St. Thomas parish in Lexington, MS on Sunday evening.

 Family members, School Sisters of St. Francis and Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, as well as local friends and neighbors gathered. The church held about 145 people. Outside another 160 chairs were set up under a tent and still more people stood.  All those outside were able to participate via monitor in the Wake service lead by Bishop Joseph Kopacz.

A Memorial Mass celebrating the lives and service of Sr. Margaret Held, OFS and Sister Paula Merrill, SCN was held at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle in Jackson, MS the following day.

The Bishop asked Fr. Greg Plata, OFM as Pastor of St. Thomas Parish where the Sisters attended, to  give the homily.  The quotes below are parts of Father Greg’s homily.

“Sr. Margaret and Sr. Paula, when taking their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, did so for one reason: they wanted to express their love for Christ and His church in a radical way. They imitated the humility of Christ, humbly going about their work as St. Paul says in Philippians, “always looking to others’ interests rather than to their own.”

“It may seem romantic to some, but it is not easy working among those who are poor.  Yet, the poor can also teach us so much about faith and trust in God.”


As the mass concluded and the Bishop processed out it was time for us to enjoy a little sharing with Sisters Emy Beth and Monica Mary from Mound Bayou, MS who also attended the Memorial Mass.

Sister Paula and Sister Margaret freely chose to serve others amidst the uncertainties, unfairness and violence of this world. Yet, like the anawim, they did it with trust, and they did it with love.” That love is what we will always hold in memory when we think of these two Sisters.