On June 21, Dominican Sister of Hope Margaret Mary Rottinghaus, OP, was honored by Saint Rosalie’s Parish in Hampton Bays for her forty-plus years of service to the parish and the Hampton Bays area. This is her story of her journey from Ohio to the Hamptons, and why she’s hopeful for the future.
When she was a high school student in Cincinnati, Ohio, Sister Margaret Mary Rottinghaus had no idea that she would become a sister. At the time, Archbishop McNicholas and Mother Mary Walsh, Co-Founder of the Dominican Sisters of the Sick Poor, were just beginning a program to introduce high school students to Dominican Sisters: the program was called Dominicanettes.
Sister Margaret Mary joined as a high school senior in its first year. She had some inclination to nursing, and she thought that the group might give her some experience in the field.
“I was interested in nursing, for one thing,” Sister shares. “By getting more knowledge about the sick poor and helping to care for them a little bit, I felt that I had a vocation for this community.”
Sister worked in a doctor’s office after graduation, but continued attending Dominicanettes meetings and activities. On October 10, 1950, she entered the novitiate of the Dominican Sisters of the Sick Poor. After earning a Bachelor’s in nursing and serving as a staff nurse in the Dominican Sisters Home Health Agencies in Ossining, Sister Margaret Mary went to Hampton Bays to serve the community there.
“When we first came down here, there was a big migrant population,” Sister recalls. “There are pockets of poverty everywhere. We weren’t here for very long when we discovered that there was a need in Hampton Bays. I was happy to be able to come down here.”
As Sister served in the area, both the need and the number of sisters responding to it grew. The Dominican Sisters Family Health Services in Hampton Bays stretched from four sisters on the nursing staff in 1961 to a staff of one-hundred currently. The office now reaches out to about seven-hundred people in the local community.
However, Sister notes that the initial spirit of the four Sick-Poor Dominican Sisters is still maintained.
“I think the best part of [nursing] was to see how much we got from the patients,” Sister says. “We often say we’re ‘joyful givers,’ so to speak. But, when we saw the joy of the people and how they welcomed us into their homes, we got more than we gave, in a way. That part is very rewarding.”
Now, she says that the spirit of “joy, gratitude, and being able to provide services to those who need them” gives her hope for the future of the Dominican Sisters Family Health Services.
“People have really supported us in many ways,” Sister notes. “It’s been a long history of providing service and getting a lot of cooperation in the parish and in the area.”
There are other social services in the area now, such as Meals on Wheels and different community centers. Sister Margaret Mary and Dominican Sisters Family Health Services works with these organizations to provide the best care to as many people in the area as possible.
Sister is now retired from nursing, but she gleefully adds that she still keeps her “finger in the pie!” Nowadays, she helps with parish fundraising, or connecting people to local services for help. After all Hampton Bays is her community.
“It is always important to have community,” Sister says. “I think it’s a combination of working together, not just in the parish, not just in the agency, but in the community in general. We can’t do everything; it’s a real community effort. You felt very supported by others who were striving to serve the Lord.”
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