by Fr. Jeroen Hoogland CP

On 21 June a party was held to mark the retirement of Margaret O’Brien as our Catering Manager. There was a shared table and a ceilidh but the evening started with a mass of thanksgiving for the more than twenty two years of Margaret’s dedication and faithful service to Minsteracres.

Margaret started her employment in February 1997, ‘but’ she adds, ‘my association with Minsteracres goes much further back. I came for school visits, parish events, summer fairs or just popped in to visit my dad, the late Andrew O’Connor when he worked on site with the Manpower Services Commission. I even catered for my dad’s ordination to the diaconate in 1987.’ Indeed, her father and many members of her extended family have been involved in the retreat centre for a long time.

Initially Margaret worked as an evening and weekend cook, but gradually the hours increased and eventually she became the Catering Manager. ‘With that came responsibility for menu planning, ordering, staffing and also directing the many volunteers who work here’, Margaret comments. ‘Added to the regular work I increasingly catered for parish events, open house cafes, funeral and various celebratory parties. My large family gave me good grounding for catering for large numbers!’

Margaret also remembers some of the challenges she had to face. ‘I recall having no electricity when I had to complete and serve the meal to retreatants in semi-darkness and Fr. Jeroen had to lead participants out of the dining room by torchlight. More recently the trusted old cooker was condemned and a period without ovens set a considerable hurdle. All challenges were met though!’

Whilst reminiscing Margaret expresses her gratitude towards the members of her catering team and the wider team of staff, community and volunteers. ‘I regard them as friends, not just workmates. The volunteers bring to mind a smile, so many generous people I have joyously worked alongside, and laughed and cried with too. Many of the long-standing and regular groups returning to Minsteracres have also meant many friendships have been forged along the way. I shall be sad to leave so many friends behind but I do know that it won’t be the last time I see some of them!’

Margaret’s retirement marks the end of an era, ‘but’, she hastens to add, ‘it is a new stage of my life. I hope to pursue some of my hobbies of dancing, singing and travelling. I hope to embrace retirement with as much contentment as I’ve had over my years at Minsteracres and I leave safe in the knowledge of love and friendships upholding me.’

During the evening Margaret sang her party piece, a song by Fred Small, ‘Everything possible’, which contains the line ‘And the only measure of your words and your deeds
will be the love you leave behind when you’re done. Margaret leaves behind a lot of love. We are grateful for her dedication and friendship and give her our best wishes for a long and happy retirement!