On May 1, Sister of St. Dominic of Amityville Margaret Smyth, OP, presented No Room for Them in the Inn as part of an ongoing online series for The Year of St. Joseph sponsored by the Vicars of Religious of the Dioceses of Brooklyn and Rockville Centre in New York.
S. Margaret -- the Founder of the Northfork Spanish Apostolate-- works with the Spanish-speaking community on the east end of Long Island.
Although S. Margaret has had varied ministries in education years ago, she felt drawn to work with the Spanish-speaking community. She immersed herself into that world, learning about their culture.
"When I left Brooklyn, I packed my bags for Guatemala and El Salvador," said S. Margaret. In Guatemala, she made tamales with masa dough, witnessed what dentistry looks like there and studied the country's history in the mountain town of Cobán. In El Salvador, she stood in the place where Oscar Romero was assassinated as well as the site where the Four Roses -- S. Ita Ford, S. Maura Clarke, S. Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan-- were killed. "You could feel the terror of that night in the darkness," S. Margaret recalled. She has also spent time in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico as well as Honduras where she worked with doctors who performing surgeries for those who had club feet.
For 24 years, she has advocated on behalf of the Spanish-speaking people of Long Island on the North Fork. This varied ministry has taken many forms such as leading children's programs, training lay leaders, teaching language and citizenship and connecting families with food, shelter and clothing. On the day of this interview, S. Margaret was helping a family as it made preparations for the burial of a wife/mother who had died from Covid-19.
Although her talk is called No Room for Them at the Inn, S. Margaret clarified, "There is plenty of room at the Inn." She said, "We have to be able to say 'welcome', come sit beside me. It can begin with a smile. A smile breaks down a bit of a wall, and we have to get rid of the walls."
"People have the tendency to want others to be assimilated, but that is the wrong word," she said. "When people assimilate, they give up something or lose something. The correct word is 'integrate' into the community. When we integrate, then everyone enjoys the richness of someone else."