In Memoriam: Sister Margaret Zeller, OSB
February 24, 1942 ─ January 22, 2024
Our sister, Margaret, has melted into God.
Many hours she sat in quiet contemplation,
knowing that one day her joy
would be complete in you, O God.
On this earth she walked quietly among us
as educator, collaborator, and steady presence
in community and in ministry.
Patience made her movement unhurried and
sharpened her capacity for meditation and musing.
Maggie particularly liked spending time
with God’s holy women, past and present,
incarnating their stories as inspiration to us.
In Maggie you gifted us with a loyal friend,
a compassionate listener, and a faithful sister
—who loved a good hand of cards.
Equally at home with laughter and with silence,
our sister Maggie was pure of heart,
a sacrament of God herself.
We ask you, God, to uphold us as you did Maggie
until we, too, melt into you.
Sister Margaret Zeller, OSB, 81, died on Monday, January 22, 2024, at Mount Saint Benedict Monastery in Erie, Pennsylvania. She was born in Rapid City, South Dakota, on February 24, 1942, to Eva (Clark) and Edward Zeller, the third youngest of eleven children. Her home parish was the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Rapid City, and she attended diocesan grade and high schools. In 1965 Sister Margaret earned a bachelor’s degree in French at Mundelein College in Chicago followed in 1972 by a master’s in elementary education at Clark College in Dubuque, Iowa, and a second master’s, in learning disabilities, also at Clark College in 1977.
From 1960-1971 Sister Margaret was a member of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Dubuque taking the name Sister Julia Mary. During that time, she taught grade school in Oregon, Illinois, and Iowa. After leaving that community, she worked as a Special Education Consultant for the Area Education Agency in rural Iowa.
Following her move to Erie to live with the Erie Benedictines’ Pax Center: A Christian Community for Nonviolence, Sister Margaret was drawn to the Benedictine charism of community and joined the Benedictines in 1984. She made her Perpetual Monastic Profession on August 26, 1989. In Erie, she served as a staff person and board member at the Erie Community Food Bank (now Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania) and then taught at St. Benedict Academy (1985-1988) and Villa Maria Academy (1988-1991). In 1991 she transitioned to hospitality and secretarial work at the Benedictine Sisters’ Glinodo Center until 1995 when she became librarian of the monastery library. She held that position until 2023.
In the early 1990s Sister Margaret began participating in Stillpoint Contemplative Prayer Retreats at Glinodo Center. The contemplative prayer experience was a core element of her spiritual life and she continued to support the practice at the monastery after Stillpoint founder and Christian Zen teacher Sister Jean Lavin retired in 2006. In 2015 Sister Margaret was instrumental in restarting Stillpoint retreats for the public at Glinodo Center. She continued in that leadership into 2023.
Out of her deep love for women in scripture and her contemplative center Sister Margaret created “Women Coming of Age,” a program that encouraged participants to experience holy women as mentors and guides. The program included monologues she scripted based on the lives of women in scripture and women of our time.
Sister Margaret was proceeded in death by her parents, Eva and Edward, her brothers Edward, Richard, Fr. Joseph, Tom, John and Jim and sisters Patricia, Jean, and Mary. She is survived by her Benedictine community, her brother Don (Pam) and sisters-in-law Kathy Grebner, Darlys, Jan, and Nadine as well as many nieces, nephews, and cousins.
Services will take place at Mount Saint Benedict Monastery: Thursday, January 25, 2024, Visitation from 2:00–5:00 p.m. and a Service of Memories at 7:00 p.m.; Friday, January 26, Visitation from 2:00–5:00 p.m. and a Mass of Christian Burial at 5:30 p.m. Brugger Funeral Homes and Crematory, Pine Avenue Branch, 845 East 38th Street, is handling arrangements.
Memorials may be made to the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, 6101 East Lake Road, Erie, Pennsylvania, 16511, click here.