COLUMBIA — Ask Franciscan Sister Margie Hosch about her work with the poor and needy, and the words pour out of her in a burst of quiet but ardent enthusiasm.
Sister Margie is the regional coordinator for Catholic Charities in the Piedmont Deanery. Her work there has included providing counseling and help to disaster survivors, victims of domestic violence, immigrants, senior citizens and the poor.
On Feb. 21, the YWCA of Greenville honored Sister Margie with an Amy Kay Stubbs Women of Achievement Award. The annual awards are given to women in the Greenville area who dedicate themselves to serving the community. The award is named after a local woman who was a dedicated community activist and died in 2003 while awaiting a liver transplant.
“I was shocked to receive the award — I thought I was moving under the radar,” Sister Margie said in an interview with The Catholic Miscellany. “The fact that a Catholic sister was someone they wanted to raise up was very validating.”
She said her award was also a chance to offer people who aren’t familiar with the work of Catholic sister a perspective on the lives and work of women in religious service.
In 2004, Catholic Charities in the Greenville area served nearly 6,000 people and used $40,000 to provide services and programs for those living in poverty. Sister Margie has initiated several programs that serve vital needs in the Greenville area. They include “Banana Splits,” a four-week program for children of divorce that helps them address the grief they often feel; “Grandparents Raising Grandchildren,” a therapy support group for seniors facing the challenge of raising kids all over again; and “In Safe Keeping,” a program designed to raise awareness of domestic violence and help prepare both clergy and lay volunteers to deal with the needs of domestic violence victims within parishes.
One of the unique programs Sister Margie initiated was “Save A Smile,” which helps provide dental care for needy adults. Since the program started in 2004, more than 130 people in the Upstate have received dentures through the program.
Her most recent project, which is starting this year, is “Housemates,” a program she said will match elderly people with suitable tenants who can help them stay in their homes by providing assistance with basic tasks.
“The program would be a multi-generational effort that would help to keep the elderly in their own homes,” Sister Margie said.
After “Housemates” gets off the ground, she said the next plan is to start a “Senior Companions” program in the Upstate, which would match volunteers with seniors in different parishes who might be lonely and in need of fellowship with another person.
“The companions ideally would check on the seniors regularly, take them out to lunch, do things with them,” Sister Margie said. “We’ll train the companions in listening skills and how to pray with seniors. Sometimes the most important thing a lonely senior citizen needs is someone who knows their name and cares about them.”
Besides all of the work she does with Catholic Charities, Sister Margie also regularly finds time to work with Catholic women on developing their spiritual lives through private or group retreats.
In the past five months, she has also provided counseling for Hurricane Katrina evacuees who have settled in the Greenville area.
“These hurricane survivors are people who had feared for their lives during Katrina,” Sister Margie said. “I talked to people who lived for nine days on a few cans of Beanie Weenies. In many cases, their very lives were at stake. For these survivors, just your presence makes them feel better — the fact that someone is there to listen.”
She said that with people who have gone through a traumatic event like Katrina, “consistency of care,” or having one person they can regularly count on seeing, is one of the most important things they need.
Sister Margie said the most important element in all of her work is restoring “basic human dignity” to people who feel they have lost that dignity while going through difficult times.
“We’re there to receive them and to work with them,” Sister Margie said. “One of the main goals is to help the people we serve believe in themselves and in the dignity that was bestowed on them by God.”