By Anne-Gerard Flynn | Special to The Republican
Article Credit: MassLive
HOLYOKE – A figure well known across this city’s diverse population is being honored for turning 80 this month.
Sister of Providence Margaret McCleary, founder of what today is known as the Providence Ministries Network, will be celebrated for her work with a birthday party on Friday, March 29, at 6:30 p.m. at the Delaney House, 3 Country Club Road.
Mayor Alex Morse is among the speakers scheduled to pay tribute along with others including Sister of Providence Mary Caritas Geary, vice-president of the congregation and former president of Mercy Medical Center, as well as the Rev. Marisa Egerstrom, priest-in-charge of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
The ministry McCleary established includes Kate’s Kitchen, Holyoke’s first soup kitchen that she opened in 1980; Loreto House, a transitional housing for homeless men that she opened in 1987, and the single-room occupancy Broderick House that dates to the same time.
A graduate of Springfield’s former Cathedral High School who celebrated 60 years with her community of women religious in 2017, McCleary entered the Sisters of Providence from Springfield’s Sacred Heart Parish.
She served as administrator for 10 years of Providence Ministries for the Needy. When she left that position in 1989, she told a Republican reporter that “every day is Thanksgiving Day” for the people who eat at Kate’s Kitchen.
“These are tough times and we are seeing more elderly, more working people who can just about pay their rent. It’s between paying their rent and putting food on their table. They usually have just enough for rent and they come here for a meal,” said McCleary of the soup kitchen that continues to serve about 150 meals daily.
A graduate of the College of St. Rose in Albany, New York, McCleary was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree in 1988 by the trustees of Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley.
The Sisters of Providence of Holyoke’s origins date back to 1873 when two Sisters of Charity came from Canada to the city. This led other pioneering women from that order to come here and become involved with caring for orphans and the sick.
The health system founded by the Sisters of Providence is now part of Trinity Health Of New England.
For more information on the March 29 event, contact Rory Casey at (413) 885-3980.