While Sr. Margaret Halligan of St. Barbara Parish in Brookfield is leaving her post as the church’s food pantry director, she is certainly not departing for good.
On June 23, Halligan celebrated 34 years of work with St. Barbara’s Food Pantry. Halligan started the food pantry back in 1980 after the pastor at the time suggested she start something new that would “help hurting people” in the community.
“I spent time in the area finding out what was here and where there were a few gaps that maybe I could fill,” Halligan said.
Halligan, who is 87 years old, grew up in Brookfield and was a parishioner of St. Barbara as a child. After deciding to enter the convent with the Sisters of St. Joseph, Halligan came back to St. Barbara in 1972 to teach eighth grade and later worked with the religious education program.
When Halligan was given the opportunity to bring something new to the parish in 1980, she started the pastoral care program.
Starting a food pantry was a dream of Halligan’s and she’s grateful when she says the pantry has never run out of food in all these years.
“The village of Brookfield has been so wonderful and the people in the neighborhood and neighboring suburbs have also been very helpful to us,” she said. “We get low, but then it comes. We are really blessed.”
Aside from coordinating transportation of food from parish collections to the food pantry on 47th Street in Brookfield, Halligan has also organized food drives in the community. Father Robert Casey, pastor of St. Barbara, credits Halligan with embracing the food pantry as not just a part of St. Barbara’s mission, but of the community as a whole.
“[The food pantry] goes beyond Sister Margaret, and she’s very committed to that in saying this is not about her, it’s about our community,” Casey said. “Sr. Margaret has done a lot to reach out beyond our parish and beyond the community to other churches.”
Halligan’s fondest memory of St. Barbara is the love she has witnessed from many community members over the years.
“I have been repaid many times by the kindness and generosity of people who have so little, and then there’s some that have a little more and they are always generous to make sure that we are always stocked,” she said.
After all these years, Halligan has decided to retire from directing the food pantry because she says there are still some other service-related things she would like to do, along with taking more time for herself.
“I want to do home visiting; I want to do a lot of the things that I just didn’t have time to do with the full schedule. I might take a little vacation or whatever, but it’s been wonderful. I just love what I’m doing,” she said.
Casey said he’s confident that the food pantry will continue to thrive because of the strong foundation of love and service that Halligan has created.
“I’m so grateful to her for her efforts over these years, because she’s lived out the corporal works of mercy of our church,” he said.
Halligan says she believes she has been the one to benefit the most from the food pantry, because of what it has taught her about relationships.
“It’s easy to be the giver, but it’s hard to ask for help or ask for food, so I try to be as gentle and as kind as I can be,” she said.
Halligan may be retiring on paper, but Casey is confident she will still be around for a while.
“I know her. She’s not going anywhere,” he said. “She’s still going to be an active part of our parish.”
Halligan assures that she is not going far.
“It’s really hard, but I’m really not walking away, because I’ll always show up. This is my home.”