Sister Margaret was one of four daughters and five sons of Henry and Ann (Markey) Brennan. She was baptized at the Church of the Visitation, Detroit and attended Sacred Heart Academy, Detroit, for both her elementary and high school education. She entered the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Monroe in 1945 and received the religious name, Sister Benedicta.
Sister Margaret earned a bachelor’s degree from Marygrove College and a doctorate in philosophy in religion from St. Mary’s College at Notre Dame, Ind. She taught in formal education at the high school level for several years at St. Mary Academy, Monroe, and St. Mary of Redford, Detroit. After two years of study at St. Mary-Notre Dame, she taught theology at Marygrove College on the Monroe Campus through 1962. That year, she was appointed novice director, a position she held for four years and very much enjoyed. In this position, she was instrumental in the lives of women entering the community and their formation of spirituality, prayer, Scripture and education.
Sister Margaret was elected general superior of the IHM congregation in 1966 and ministered as president through 1976. She led the congregation through the many changes and opportunities made available through the second Vatican Council. She served as president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) in 1972
After serving as IHM president, she spent a year of study at St. Joseph College in Toronto. In 1978 she was named associate professor of pastoral theology at Regis College, a theological college of the University of Toronto. Sister Margaret was the first female theology professor at the college. Over the next 24 years, she held associate and full-professorships in theology at Regis. Her teaching ministry included authorship of articles and books on religious life, spirituality and culture. She received the 2010 LCWR Outstanding Leadership Award at the Assembly in Dallas.
Sister Margaret returned to Michigan in 2002, residing in Farmington and ministering as theological consultant at Visitation Spirituality Center, Monroe. She spent a year as visiting professor of theology at the College of St. Catherine, in St. Paul/Minneapolis, Minn. In 2007, she moved to the IHM Motherhouse and continued to minister as theological consultant for Visitation Spirituality Center until 2011. She shared her gifts generously, lecturing in the United States and Canada, offering reflection on current issues and in pastoral visits with her sisters in community and colleagues.
Sister Margaret is survived by her sister, Ann Grier, and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her sisters, Mary Cooney and Ellen Mathews; and brothers; Vincent, Francis, Richard, Henry and James. Read her Remembering and Eulogy.
IHM Associate Margaret Susan Thompson wrote about Sister Margaret’s life, influence and spirituality in an article published by National Catholic Reporter. Titled, “Sr. Margaret Rita Brennan’s leadership has lasting influence for US women religious,” the article may be accessed here. Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister wrote “Sr. Margaret Brennan stood strong in Vatican II call to renew religious life” for Global Sisters Report; it may be accessed here.
A YouTube video with many photos of Sister Margaret’s life may be viewed here.