Sr. Marilyn Kerber, SNDdeN
100 East Eighth Street
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
(513) 421-3131 ext. 2865
Mother Margaret George
Healing Body and Spirit: Sister Montiel Rosenthal and Mother Margaret George
By AJ Keith, Sisters of Charity Communications intern
On the 150th anniversary of Mother Margaret George’s death, the Sisters of Charity celebrate the life and works of their founding member by highlighting the ministries of a current Sister. Sister Montiel Rosenthal had originally wanted to marry and become a mother of three. When she was asked what became of her plans, she responded: “God laughed.”
Laughter is, as they say, the best medicine. Sister joined the Congregation in 1986, which was also her fourth year as a medical student on the fast-track to becoming a doctor. She, as well as her mother, had been taught by the Sisters of Charity and her parents had always brought her up to be “open to God’s call.” Due to her fostering parents and a growing inner sense of vocation as a Sister as well as a doctor, Sister Montiel joined the Congregation as she saw how the two could complement healing body and spirit.
Mother Margaret George responded to a calling of her own after a long friendship with St. Elizabeth Seton, the founder of the Sisters of Charity. This friendship instilled a value of altruism in her and inspired her to stay true to the wishes of her friend and mentor. Instead of remaining with the American Sisters of Charity as they were asked to merge with the French Daughters of Charity, Mother Margaret George and five other Sisters chose to remain true to the vision of Elizabeth Seton and established their own diocesan community of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati. Because of her steadfast values, the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati was established on March 25, 1852.
Among her ministries, Sister Montiel’s altruism brought her to missions across the globe, such as the impoverished country of Armenia, which was left in shambles after a devastating earthquake and the economic decline after the fall of the Soviet Union. Her ministries in the United States took her to the community of Kentucky where she received the Volunteer Faculty – Medicine Preceptor of the Year Award in 1994. Her charities also reached out to those under-privileged by serving the back-siders, the people behind the scenes in horse-racing who are subjected to danger each day. Sister Montiel serves there every Thursday during the racing season at Belterra Racino in Cincinnati, Ohio. Most of the afflictions that affect these folks are, “Chronic diseases like arthritis and high blood pressure, depression and diabetes,” she says, “And if they had something that’s a little more advanced, we make sure that we get them the help that they need.” Sister has worked for over 12 years at a free health clinic for these workers since they do not have healthcare available to them, and even recalled an incident where there was a man who was bitten on the face by a horse and she sewed the man’s face up on site.
Sister Montiel’s desire to reach out to others echoes the call that Mother Margaret George answered. Both raced towards danger if it meant helping her fellow women and men in need. Such was the case with Mother Margaret when she became the director of the New York Orphan Asylum, then was transferred to Frederick, Maryland, where she served as the director of St. John’s Academy. Mother Margaret George is best remembered for her leadership skills that Sister Montiel practices each day, and hopes to model among other Race Track Clinic volunteers that they will carry on with the same sense of service and altruism that inspired her.
Sister Montiel’s ministry today is in the practice of Family Medicine at The Christ Hospital in Mt. Auburn and was even named on the Best Doctors List of 2016 by Cincinnati Magazine. Sister says, “There is a crisis in the rural United States,” due to the lack of doctors. Not only did she respond to this need, but she has become a professor at the University of Cincinnati teaching Family and Community Medicine to future generations of doctors so that they may respond to the need as well. The most important aspect of her ministry that she tries to convey to her students is the connection that must be established with patients. “You can quote medical literature all day long, but if you don’t have a connection with the people you’re working with, it’s worse than useless,” she says. Her relationships that she develops with her patients is stated not only through the actions of Mother Margaret George, but in the very mission statement of the Sisters of Charity: “We choose to act justly, to build loving relationships, to share our resources with those in need and to care for all creation.”
This “Healer’s Art,” as Sister Montiel refers to it, may be different from the art of poetry that Mother Margaret George studied and produced, but the universal language of helping others is what connects these two in an impenetrable link. They have both lived in the spirit of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, who is cited as an inspiration of both of these impactful and pious women that have lived in the spirit of peace. The Armenian word Khaghathootyoon is a blessing for peace and always appears to sign off Sister Montiel’s letters.
For more information about Mother Margaret George, CLICK HERE to visit the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati website.