Sisters Margaret Flynn (left) and Beth Jaspers (second to right) pose with the staff at The Advocate Center
On Saturday, October 7th, 2023, sisters, family, and the Wise County Community gathered at the The Oxbow Center in Saint Paul, Virginia to celebrate the lives and ministries of Dominican Sisters of Hope Beth Jaspers, OP and Margaret Flynn, OP. Prior to their deaths in 2020 and 2023, both sisters served Wise County for over forty years.
According to Peggy McHale, an associate of the Dominican Sisters of Hope and organizer of the event, the gathering was an opportunity for friends, family members, and sisters to “acknowledge the sisters’ faithful service and to connect with their Virginia community of friends and co-workers.”
“[This was] our day to celebrate all that Beth and Margaret left of themselves in their beloved mountains: care and respect for the poor, hearts focused on Justice, and a legacy steeped in Hope,” Peggy said.
Sister Margaret Flynn, OP
Sister Beth Jaspers, OP
As Peggy wrote:
“From 1977 on, Sisters Beth and Margaret walked with the marginalized and powerless. Each one of them routinely travelled the back roads and hollers to be a healing presence in the midst of need. And they didn’t stop with direct service work; each of them tapped into her Dominican call to preach the good news by shaping public policy and priorities.
Because of their work, Norton, Virginia now has a shelter for abused women, aptly named “Hope House,” Wise County Food Bank, and The Advocate Center where people receive systemic aid as well as food, milk, diapers, clothing, and more. As good neighbors, they spoke out about the needs of the poor: they accompanied abuse victims to court, they influenced social service policies to make food stamps more widely available, they successfully lobbied for the placement of a higher education facility in their county. They also served on the boards of several service organizations, such as for the Health Department Advisory, Family Oasis Support Services, the Rural Appalachian Development Association, the Remote Area Medical Board, and Head Start.”
However, the Wise County community never had a chance to say a proper goodbye. Both sisters returned to New York due to health problems during the pandemic. Sister Margaret Flynn, OP died on February 13, 2020 at the Wartburg in Mount Vernon, NY. Sister Beth Jaspers, OP died at Cabrini Nursing Home in Dobbs Ferry, NY, on May 8, 2023.
At the hybrid gathering, family, sisters, and people from Wise County shared stories of the sisters helping them with bills and accompanying them through difficult times. They recounted memories of the sisters attending their family funerals, companioning them at the hospital after surgeries, playing with their children, offering rides, and helping pregnant women in need. They talked about the sisters providing Christmas gifts for families who otherwise didn’t have any. The sisters’ love for Appalachia and its people filled the room as Dominican Sister of Hope Mary Feigen, OP passed a shawl amongst participants to gather memories.
Marybeth Adkins, executive director of Family Crisis Support Services, said that Sisters Margaret and Beth “molded the person that [she is] today” through her work with them at The Advocate Center for sixteen years.
“One day, Sister Beth looked at me and she said, ‘Girl it is not your place to judge [others],” Adkins shared. “I had taken that forward. I am a better person personally and professionally because of these ladies.”
She added, “Sister Margaret and Sister Beth truly truly loved the people here.”
The heads of those present nodded in agreement. Donning a shawl, a gentleman shared his story of being touched by the companionship of Sisters Margaret and Beth.
“Beth and Margaret were an inspiration to us all,” he concluded.