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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Everybody’s Sister

    One of the most popular females on the Stony Brook University (SBU) campus, sought after by many and compared to few, can be seen walking on campus at an easy pace.’ Standing at 5 feet 3 inches, a twinkle in her blue-green eyes and dressed in all purple, a skirt set with a pink blouse on, it seems she can’t go more than 10 or 15 feet without being stopped.’ Each person that steps into her path receives an easy smile, a meaningful conversation and walks away with a sense of happiness that isn’t easily explained. As her 76-year-old frame crosses the street, the wind blows through her snow white hair and she continues on her path, crossing guard Tim can’t help but mutter, ‘Isn’t Sister Margaret great?’

    Was it mentioned that she’s a nun?’ Sister Margaret has been a Chaplin at SBU for 19 years. She belongs to the Order of the Religious Sacred Heart of Mary, an international religious community represented in 14 countries around the world with the main ministry related to education.
    Sister Margaret Ann Landry sits in her office in the Interfaith Section on the second floor of the Union. She is surrounded by a sea of purple objects – a lavender scarf is draped on the seat of her chair. A twig cross entwined with dark purple flowers that reach for the sky, a symbol of her faith and religion. The cabinets are gray with a tint of purple.’ A knit blanket slung over the back of her chair features three different shades of purple alternating from light to dark, and back again.’ Several plaques with Greek letters adorn the outer edges of her desk – this purple just a little pinker and brighter.’ On the wall a poster hangs on the wall, ‘Purple Profile: You are a Purple Person’, going into depth about the characteristics a ‘purple person’ would possess: the imagination, the sensitivity, the ideals that a ‘purple person’ would hold dear.’ The list goes on, giving several reasons as to why purple people are so great.’ But why purple?

    ‘It’s a family thing,’ Sister Margaret explains.’ She looks thoughtful as she chooses her next words.’ ‘My mother really loved pastel colors and I sort of zoomed in on it.’ I wear it because I like it, and I think I look good in it.’ She finishes with a laugh.’

    She calmly explains that the Catholic Church revised its rules in the 1970’s, allowing nuns to wear street clothes, as she gestures to her outfit which is composed of a long dark purple skirt with a matching jacket and a pink shirt beneath.’ She then stands up, runs her hand down her legs to smooth her skirt and walks to the door.

    ‘ ‘I made this quite awhile ago for a presentation to a career woman’s network luncheon.’ It was used to describe how I became a nun and my journey to Stony Brook.’ It has pictures of me as a child in my habit and of me freshly out of my habit.’
    She takes the time to explain every picture; lingering over some pictures longer than others – like the black and white picture of her as an infant with her mother, her older sister, and her two older brothers.’ It is evident that she loved sports from the pictures of her in a lavender tennis outfit holding a tennis racket, or her dressing up as a child in her brother’s football uniform and holding a football and of the way she spoke about the pictures.’ The board peppered with black and white pictures and slowly progressing to more current pictures details a life full of interesting activities and events.

    Changing the subject and glancing around the purple room she asks herself aloud, ‘What do I do?’ Sister Margaret begins shifting through papers, searching for something as though on a mission.’ ‘I counsel students who are in need, I act as an advisor for several clubs/organizations on campus and I work with students on several of these programs or work a significant amount with these programs.” She gestures to a stack of multi-colored flyers sitting on top of her desk.’

    The flyers range from a fall retreat, an opportunity for prayer and reflection at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, where other schools participate as well.’ Another flyer advertises a program involving Oxfam, an international non-profit world wide organization whose purpose is to alleviate world hunger as well as economic and social injustice around the world. Yet another flyer advertises the donation of meal plan points, the tenure that students use to pay for food on campus on their identification cards that will be converted to money and sent to Darfur and a flyer enticing students to attend Sunday Mass.’

    ‘I had a student from the School of Journalism ask me what I do all day and I just handed him the flyers.’ She laughs.
    ‘Sister Margaret is the nicest woman ever,’ says Jenny Wang, who graduated from Stony Brook University in the spring of 2007.’ Currently living in her home state of New Hampshire, Jenny occasionally visits Stony Brook while job hunting.’ ‘ ‘I used to go to several events on campus and though she wasn’t at all of them, it sure felt like it.’ She really is the sweetest woman ever. I love her!’

    Born in West Hartford, Connecticut, just before the Depression, Sister Margaret grew up with a strong church influence.’ Out of her 5 siblings, 2 brothers and 3 sisters, she was the only one to become a nun. ‘I remember that I had an uncle on my mother’s side and an uncle on my father’s side that were priests.’ Though no one pushed me toward it, I always did like the church.’ I got the opportunity to attend a catholic school, so both my sister and I went’hellip;. and I really liked it.”

    As she speaks, Sister Margaret is really animated with her hand gestures.’ Her lavender chiffon scarf floats off her shoulder and she repositions it.’ When the rebellious scarf escapes again, Sister Margaret gently drapes it back over her shoulder- her hand lingering over it for a moment as if she were a mother trying to calm a misbehaving child.’ Her snow white hair moves from side to side, hiding the pink sunglasses that sit perched atop her head.

    ‘I wanted to go to a catholic high school, I knew which one but my father had other plans for me – he had gotten me into a really good private school.’ When I made the decision to go to Marymount College and I told my sister, all she did was look at me and say ‘Peggy, you’re going to become a nun if you attend that school’.’ We both had plenty of friends who had attended Marymount and then decided to join the order.’ I joined the order after my second year there.’

    Sister Margaret is an excellent conversationalist, weaving her conversation partners into the conversation in a way that easily identified the other person, like adding clay to a pottery wheel for the molding of a clay vase.’ Talking about the many programs she does, and her experience as a child in her schooling seems to take her to a place that is beyond all that the outsider can view.’

    ‘It used to be that you would work in a Catholic institution and whenever you wanted to transfer or your superiors wanted to send you elsewhere you would have to go.’ Things changed, and I applied for a job at Stony Brook as Chaplain for the Interfaith Ministry.’ From the start I was able to chart my own course, and it has been and continues to be wonderful,’ she says.

    Sister Margaret’s work as the
    Chaplain on campus has not gone unrecognized.’ Four years ago, she became the first recipient of Stony Brook University‘s ‘Life Achievement Award’ presented at the Campus Life Awards Ceremony for Excellence in Student Leadership and Campus Involvement.’ In her honor, the award has since been named The Sister Margaret Ann Landry Religious Sacred Heart of Mary Lifetime Achievement Advising Award.’

    ‘I think that she is awesome,’ Jeffrey Barnett said.’ Originally from Yonkers but now living on Long Island, Barnett is an Alumni of SBU.’ ‘There’s very much an endearment I have to Sister Margaret.” He pauses; his blue eyes squint a little behind his glasses as he thinks about exactly what he’s going to say.’ ‘It’s partly because she’s a nun, but she really involves herself in student’s lives.’ She’s like a family member, she warms my heart.’

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