Sister Marguerite Connors, SHSp, former school superintendent, dies at 90

by Joan Kurkowski-Gillen

North Texas Catholic

December 18, 2019

Sister Marguerite Connors, SHSp
Sister Marguerite Connors, SHSp

FORT WORTH — Holy Spirit Sister Marguerite Connors had one objective as an educator.

The former teacher, principal, and administrator wanted to create “saints and scholars” who would grow up and make the world a better place.

“She was dedicated and passionate about Catholic schools,” said Diane Starkovich, remembering the woman who served the Diocese of Fort Worth as school superintendent from 1994 to 2004. “She always wanted the best for children. They were her priority.”

Sr. Marguerite died Sunday, December 15, at the Convent of the Sisters of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate in San Antonio. She was 90.

A Mass of Christian Burial is set for 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 19 at Holy Spirit Convent, 300 Yucca Street. Interment will follow immediately in the convent cemetery. Members of her religious community will lead a recitation of the Rosary at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 18.

A native of Boston, Massachusetts, Sr. Marguerite entered the convent in 1949 and spent 68 years in ministry. After working as a teacher and principal in Texas and Mississippi schools, she became supervisor of schools and administered the Pastoral Institute for the Diocese of Corpus Christi.

In 1994, the late Fort Worth Bishop Joseph P. Delaney appointed her diocesan superintendent of schools. Prior to becoming superintendent, she served as interim superintendent for six months and as director of the Formation/Education department for the diocese.

Before presenting Sr. Marguerite with the 2004 Diocesan Honoree Award at the Catholic Education banquet, Bishop Delaney praised the retiring administrator for her work ethic.

“Being superintendent of schools is a big job,” he told the audience. “When I came to Fort Worth and saw the Catholic schools we are blessed with, I thought we’d always need a superintendent who would give her whole heart to Catholic schools. For the past 10 years, we’ve had that person in Sr. Marguerite.”

Starkovich, who is superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Atlanta, spent nine years as principal at St. Maria Goretti Catholic School in Arlington before joining the Catholic Schools office as assistant superintendent under Sr. Marguerite. One of her responsibilities was helping with accreditation.

“There was a time when Fort Worth was the only diocese in Texas where all the Catholic schools were fully accredited,” she pointed out. “That was because of Sr. Marguerite, who was very detail-oriented and believed if you do accreditation well, your schools will be strong.”

Always willing to listen and compromise when necessary, Sr. Marguerite was firm but fair, according to Clarice Peninger.

“She was firmly committed to advisory councils and felt they should be composed of parents as their children’s first teachers,” said the former principal of St. Andrew Catholic School. “And yet she was supportive of principals and teachers. Marguerite always sought out facts before jumping to conclusions.”

The longtime educator called Sr. Marguerite “a real visionary” and one of the best superintendents to work in the diocese.

“She was an amazing woman,” Peninger added. “I’m grateful and lucky to have served with her.”

A special concern for the superintendent was maintaining city center schools and she worked diligently to provide them with financial aid and grants, remembered co-worker Tessy Ross.

“She loved Catholic schools and wanted them to be Christ-centered places of learning, achievement, and service,” said the former special projects coordinator.

Proud of her Irish roots, the diminutive sister also was known for her dry wit.

“She always looked forward to her trips to the ‘motherland,’” Ross recalled. “She will be dearly missed by all who knew and loved her.”

After retiring, Sr. Marguerite returned to her order’s motherhouse in San Antonio where she served her community as an archivist. Notable accomplishments include digitizing the records of all the sisters since the founding of the congregation and locating the burial sites of deceased members.

The late superintendent maintained friendships with many former colleagues and several recently visited the ailing sister in San Antonio. Joined by former principals who worked in the diocese, Sister Gabriel Hession, SHSp, and Sister Eileen Mannion, SHSp, the group reminisced about their time in Fort Worth.

“She was happy to see the four of us from her days in Fort Worth,” Peninger explained. “She said that was the best time in her life — at least the educational part.”

Sr. Marguerite is survived by members of her religious community, sister Kathleen Fox, nieces, and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, contributions to the ministries of the Sisters of the Holy Spirit are appreciated.

FORT WORTH — Holy Spirit Sister Marguerite Connors had one objective as an educator.

Published (until 12/18/2029)