2015 Jubilarian – Margaret (Marie Pauline) Gearhart
Sister Margaret (Peg) Gearhart first met the IHM Sisters at St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio. Principal Sister Thaddia Littlejohn was a big influence on her; she spent many days in Sister Thaddia’s office for disciplinary reasons. Her grandmother was also central to her spiritual formation.
Sister Peg planned to attend Ohio University and become a journalist. However, after tagging-along with some of her classmates on a trip to the Motherhouse in her senior year, she began a different journey. “Once I came to Monroe, I was absolutely determined to enter,” she says. “There was something about this place and these women that drew me.”
To her parents’ dismay at the prospect of not having grandchildren, Sister Peg left Akron, where she and her two sisters were raised, and joined the IHM community.
“I wasn’t aware that I was here because I was called to be here,” she recalls. “It took me a long time to understand that I’m here because God wants me here.” She accepted the strict structured schedule of her days but struggled with the academics. However, she passed all her classes.
Over the next five years, she managed two different women’s shelter in West Virginia before returning to religious education in Richmond, Va., for two years. In the midst of her different ministries, she earned her master’s degree in ministry from Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.Sister Peg’s first ministry was teaching grades five and six at St. Gerard Majella in Kirkwood, Mo. After five years, she took a year of renewal before making final vows then and ministered in religious education, first in Montana and then in Michigan. She returned to teaching fifth grade for two years at Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Minnetonka, Minn., and then served in religious education in North Carolina for six years. During this time, Sister Peg realized, “I tend to be a creative thinker and began to develop my adult education skills.”
After Virginia, the Archdiocese in Miami hired Sister Peg to design programs to meet the needs of the parishes in the Florida Keys. She was also a case manager for the child abuse program. This was followed by two years teaching religious education for the Catholic community at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., and then ministering in homeless shelters in D.C. After eight years, she moved back to Monroe to serve as a case manager and advocate for Family Counseling and Shelter Services and then as part of the Monroe County Guardianship Program.
The IHM community is Sister Peg’s greatest joy. “Knowing that I belong to this group of women. Wherever we are, we will be together. This is family. I have come to see myself as an amazing creature of God’s.” She is most grateful to the community for “loving me into life.”