Sister Margaret Hansknecht, SDS had the heart of a missionary all along – she just didn’t know it 67 years ago when she professed her first vows.
She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from Marquette University, and taught at Mother of Good Counsel Grade School and later at Divine Savior High School in Milwaukee. Then in 1965, she responded to a call for volunteers to open a girls’ boarding school in East Africa. Her path as a missionary took her much further than she ever could have imagined.
“I did not have a special desire for the missions, but realized I had the qualifications needed by our Generalate and I was willing to go,” Sr. Margaret said. Her courage to volunteer for ministry in the new Masasi Girls Secondary School brought unexpected rewards and opportunities.
In 1980, Sr. Margaret went to the Holy Land to serve as principal of Greek Catholic School. The Arab-Christian school in Nazareth had enrollment of 1,200 students in grades K-12. When Sr. Margaret reflected on that time, she said, “I again had the great grace to not only experience another culture, but also to support the Christian minority in Israel.” Amid a Hebrew state and Arab Muslims, Sr. Margaret saw it as an opportunity to promote peace and mutual respect in a much divided land.
Sr. Margaret described the profound effect her seven years serving in the Holy Land has had on her life. ”My time in Israel sparked many ‘oh!’ moments when, in the midst of daily life, I would realize anew that I was living in Nazareth.” Especially after attending daily Mass at the site of the Annunciation, Sr. Margaret said her prayer life and important life decisions were deeply affected by the Virgin Mary’s words of The Angelus prayer, “Be it done to me according to your word.”
Margaret Anne Hansknecht was born the fourth of seven children June 12, 1937 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. At age 14 she entered the prep school of the Sisters of the Divine Savior in Milwaukee. When she became a novice three years later, she received the name Liboris to honor her great-aunt, Mother Liboria Hansknecht, SDS.
When Sr. Margaret came back to the U.S., she returned to teaching for a time, and served as accountant and treasurer for the North American Province. She also worked in bookkeeping and human resources at Milwaukee’s Urban Day School. She saw it as a true mission, noting that more than 90% of the students were deprived of basic resources.
In retirement, Sr. Margaret sought volunteer opportunities where her gifts helped people in need. One volunteer ministry close to her heart was working in finance at Kathy’s House, a home-away-from-home for family members of hospitalized patients in Milwaukee. She made an impression on administrators there, so much so that they offered to pay her for her services.
All through her life, Sr. Margaret showed a generosity and openness to all people, especially people of other cultures, certainly a requirement for a missionary. Her varied interests and keen mind proved to broaden her outlook on life.
As Sr. Margaret’s health declined, she chose to move to Salvatorian Sisters Residence (SSR), where she received additional assistance to help her live a fruitful life. Sr. Margaret enjoyed reading – she kept her mind stimulated with books from the nearby public library. She also prepared “table games” for social events held at SSR. They often contained trivia information about Salvatorian history.
In January 2023, Sr. Margaret took a courageous step forward when she informed the Staff at SSR that she felt it was time for her to move to St. Anne’s Nursing Home because she realized that she required more help than an assisted facility could provide. However, Sr. Margaret returned to SSR to participate in activities from time to time – her latest celebration was on July 4th! Thereafter, her health took a downward turn, and Sr. Margaret was placed on hospice. She died peacefully on the morning of July 17th with Sisters Joan Wagner, Denise Demulling and DePaul Schafer, three of her novitiate companions, at her bedside.
Sister Margaret was preceded in death by her parents Joseph and Ione Hansknecht, and her siblings and their spouses, Joe and Mary Beth Hansknecht, Ruth and Bill Guinn, Richard and Rosemary Hansknecht, sister Susan Fogerty, and brother-in-law Tom Black. She is survived by her brother Paul Hansknecht, sister Mary Lou Black, nieces and nephews, and members of the Salvatorian Family.