Maryknoll, NY — Sister Margaret Frances Kulage, MM, the eldest Maryknoll Sister, who served primarily in Hawaii and the Philippines, died August 28, 2014, at Maryknoll Sisters Home Care IV, Maryknoll, NY. She was 107 years old and had been a Maryknoll Sister for 85 years.
Born on June 24, 1907, in St. Louis, MO, to Henry J. and Cunigunda Kuenz Kulage, she was one of nine children born to the couple.
A graduate of Holy Cross Parochial School, St. Louis, Margaret attended Speedwa Business School, St. Louis, from 1920-1921, working for Shell Oil Company for eight years until she entered the Maryknoll Sisters Congregation at their motherhouse in Maryknoll, NY, from Holy Cross Church, St. Louis, on April 5, 1929. At reception, she received the religious name Sister M. Irma Francis.
After making First Vows at Maryknoll on June 24, 1931, Sister Marge, as her friends called her, studied at The Venard, a Maryknoll junior seminary in Clarks Summit, PA, from which she graduated in 1936. She made Final Vows at Maryknoll on June 24, 1934, and worked at the Maryknoll Sisters Center in various capacities until receiving her first mission assignment, to Hawaii, in 1943.
A courageous and sensitive young woman, impassioned by a quest for peace and justice for the poor, Sister Marge devoted herself to catechetics, pastoral work and teaching in Hawaii for approximately 20 years. She served on Oahu, in Waialua from 1943-1945, and Kalihi Kai from 1945-1953. Returning to the Motherhouse, she completed her college work earning a Bachelor of Education degree at Maryknoll Teachers College while also serving as Assistant Superior at the Motherhouse. From 1959 to 1962, she served as Superior at St. Theresa’s Convent, the residence for the Maryknoll Sisters working in the Maryknoll Fathers’ offices. Returning to Hawaii in 1962 she served as superior in Kalihi Kai and then was assigned to Wailuku on the island of Maui from 1965-1966.
Following two years in administration at the Motherhouse from 1967-1969, Sister Marge was sent to the Philippines, where she taught at Maryknoll College, Manila, from 1969-1970, then served as principal of La Salette Elementary School, Santiago City, Isabella, from 1970-1972.
From 1972 to 1978, she was the secretary to the Maryknoll Fathers’ Regional superior and coordinator for the Maryknoll Sisters in Davao, Philippines. That same year, she and 11 other Maryknoll Sisters survived an ordeal at sea, when they survived 16 hours in shark-infested waters off the east coast of Mindanao after their boat capsized. In an account written several months later, Sister Marge recalled the incident: “At 5:15 or a little later, I looked at my watch and said to Joanie (another of the Sisters), ‘Do you realize that you and I have been travelling almost 12.5 hours already?’ A few minutes later, I found myself coming up for air…. Instinctively, I must have grabbed hold of the boat as I came up…. Once we were all in position, we again marveled and thanked God that no one had been hurt. This was good, not only for the obvious reason but also because blood in the water would attract sharks. Every one of us knew the area was shark infested, but no one mentioned the fact until we were safe ashore. We hoisted (Sister) Patricia Marie’s white veil on a spar and prayed that it would be sighted.”
She then undertook a Prayer ministry, and became interested in the charismatic prayer movement. From 1979 to 1990, she worked visiting various prisons in the Philippines. The photo above shows her with one of the prisoners to whom she ministered.
Officially retiring to the United States in 1991, Sister Marge lived at the Maryknoll Sisters residence in Monrovia, CA, until her return to the Motherhouse in 1995 where she resided until her death.
A Vesper service will be held for Sister Margaret on Tuesday, September 2, 2014, at 4:15 p.m., at the Annunciation Chapel, Maryknoll Sisters Center, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial on Wednesday, September 3, 2014, at 11 a.m. at the same location. Burial will be in the Maryknoll Sisters Cemetery on the Maryknoll Sisters Center grounds.