SAM_4440-copy

That knock at the door might not be a sales person. Sr. Margery Therese Harkin, PVMI, with her soft Irish brogue and sparkling blue eyes, is out pounding the streets, looking for the lost sheep, even as the summer’s brutal heat beats down on her pale blue dress and veil.

Accompanied by seminarians or lay people, Sr. Margery visits homes, inquiring if there are any baptized Catholics in residence and inviting them to church. A religious sister belonging to the New-York-based Parish Visitors of Mary Immaculate, Sr. Margery said some of those whom she visits decide to attend her RCIA classes.

You can hear Sr. Margery’s interview with Michael Dixon on The Bishop’s Hour  here (23:05) 

“We always tell them that the priest sent us,” Sr. Margery said. “Just as the Apostles were sent, we never go in our own name.”

She and two other sisters reside in a convent at Christ the King Parish in Mesa, but 30 hours a week, Sr. Margery is working to bring people into — or home to — the Catholic Church at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Phoenix.

This is her third year at the west-side parish and she estimates she’s visited about 4,000 homes. Previously, Sr. Margery worked in the neighborhoods surrounding Queen of Peace and St. Timothy in Mesa and St. Daniel in Scottsdale. She’s also trained teams of parish visitors in other states.

She doesn’t pressure people — she merely invites them and lets God do the rest.

In Florida, a woman answered the door and admitted she hadn’t been back to church in 30 years because something a priest did offended her.

“We’re taught we have to listen,” Sr. Margery said of the encounter. “She needed to tell her story.” Though apprehensive, the woman decided to come back to the Church.

There’s more to Sr. Margery’s story than knocking on doors, however. She spent 11 years as a missionary in Africa, working among the poor and helping to establish a PVMI convent in Nigeria.

So how did a farm girl from County Donegal wind up as a religious sister in Nigeria?

Sr. Margery credits an encounter with Christ in the sacrament of confession when she was 15 years old. It happened during a parish mission and she said that although the confession didn’t seem like much of a breakthrough, she prayed in front of the Blessed Sacrament afterward and had a religious experience.

“It was as if I knew Jesus in a very intimate way, and I knew I was forgiven,” Sr. Margery said. “I left the church that evening a new person and knowing for the first time in my life that I was loved by God.” And there was something else: a deep desire to pray and give her whole life to God.

She’s been learning to let go, even when it hurts, and leave everything to God ever since.

Though it was difficult, at 22 she left Ireland to accompany her younger sister to the United States. In New York, she got involved in the charismatic renewal and the Legion of Mary. She enjoyed her work as a bookkeeper but knew something was missing. At 33, she left all her friends in Brooklyn behind to enter the convent.

In 1991, she left the United States and was sent to Nigeria where there was no running water or electricity. It was not an easy life, but she grew to love the people there and said she was sad to leave Africa.

“It’s been a life of deep peace in the Lord,” she said, “peace even in the midst of chaos at times, but His peace, which is beyond all understanding.”

22 COMMENTS

  1. Great story. Not too often do I hear of Catholics proselytizing. Pehaps being the biggest and richest Christian church has made us proud over time; humbling ourselves for the betterment of God’s kingdom will certainly bring joy to Christ.

    • Just a quibble: She’s not “proseltyzing” IMO: “visits homes, inquiring if there are any baptized Catholics in residence and inviting them to church”
      What she is doing is most needed by her Church, as I understand the demographics. Even in “Catholic” countries like France the pews are mostly empty.

  2. This is great! I’m proud to be a Catholic. We did the same while in my youth group and it’s an amazing feeling. Way to go sister!

  3. I would love to contact Sister Margery Therese Harkin, PVMI! She is a relative, a Harkin and from County Donegal. I was a part of the Charismatic Renewal as well. We have a lot in common without even knowing each other. Please tell her to contact me at my email address. God bless her in all of her work! I will back her efforts in prayer. She sounds just like me! God love her, Nancy

    • This is a reply to Nancy Wiederholt’s comment.
      Nancy, Sr. Margery Therese can be contacted by writing to
      1534 E. Dana Ave, Mesa,AZ 85204 or by phoning (after Aug 6)
      480-969-2384. She cannot be reached by email. God bless you!

    • Hi, Nancy. I looked you up on Facebook but couldn’t find you. I spoke to Sr. Margery last night and she would love to speak with you. I do hope you’ll contact her at the number listed below. God bless you.

  4. Funny how the Holy Spirit makes people want to answer the call to “GO” into all the world and preach the gospel. One on one evangelism is the thing that will make the difference in the heart of the believer and that will be Catholic or Protestant. Discipleship will continue the growth. May the Church step up to the learning curve that this sister is on! We’re doing it here in Texas. Come join us!

  5. Great article on Sr. Margery, Joyce! It has been a privilege and joy serving on the Phoenix Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (PDCCW) with this beautiful soul. She has that Irish twinkle in her eye and such a humble spirit when you are with her, doesn’t she? Her invite to join in on her journey door-to-door is contagious as I know of friends who have been trained by her and have committed to the mission. Thank-you for bringing her vocation to the forefront with your award-winning writing talent!

  6. Sister Margery; Door-to door visitations is what I feel we need in our parish. We’re moving into a new Church November 1,2013 and we have to let the city of Weston Fl about our new location. Send me whatever printed matter you might have that could guide us or by any chance are you planning to be in Miami Fl anytime soon. Thanks for doing a great job for our beloved Catholic Church

    Mike Alba
    Grand Knight
    Knights of Columbus
    Council 14212
    Saint Katharine Drexel
    Cell: 754 422 8401

  7. No surprise that she got her start in the Legion of Mary! Legionaries have been going door-to-door on behalf of their pastors since the founding in Ireland in 1921. It is the heart of the Legion of Mary lay apostolate. I was in the Legion of Mary in the 1980’s in Virginia, and going door-to-door, in pairs, to invite people to church and teach them about Catholicism revived our parish. The Legion has been doing the “New Evangelization” since long before there was such a thing!

  8. Beautiful! God bless her. Why don’t all priests and nuns do that? The reason this is news is because it’s an anomaly. The world knows a ‘sisters habit’ and a priests ‘roman collar’. Are they really that busy to mix with the unwashed masses? Why can’t our clergy spend a couple of days a week visiting not only homes but local businesses, leaving a card with Mass times and the parish phone number? Even the bishops should get out of those stuffy air conditioned diocese administrative meetings and start mixing it up a little. Bottom line….Be more like Pope Frances. Peace amigos………………..JO

  9. I agree that the priests should get closer to parishioners and bishops visiting parishes more often ; however, the job in the public square is primarily up to the laity to carry out . Pope Francis has made it clear that we got to leave the four walls of our churches and go into the world to evangelize and follow Jesus Christ as our model

    • Michael, no argument with me. The Catholic laity is lazy.(That can include me) Most Catholic laity vote pro-abortion politics and couldn’t defend Christ’s Church against a bar stool. But this article was about a Sister/nun that walks door to door and invites Catholics to Mass! That’s just weird! It’s so rare that Joyce Coronel wrote an article about it. Also what is odd is that the good sister is wearing a habit. Now I’ve heard and seen everything! God bless Sr. Margery, we need more like her. ;) Later amigos……….JO

Leave a Reply