You Oughta Be in History, You’re a Unique Story
National Women’s History Month
by Sisters and Associates of the Sisters of the Holy Family
by Margaret Hakeem, SHF
My father and mother came to America from Syria over 100 years ago and settled in Stockton after living in other cities!
We were eight children, six girls and two boys. I am No. 7 in the family.
I was born in Stockton, California and lived there most of my life. I enjoyed playing tennis, softball, and dancing. As far as skating and riding a bicycle, I was a failure. I attended public school and catechism at St. Gertrude’s Catholic School. My father and mother were members of the Greek Orthodox Church. We lived near St. Gertrude’s Church. Most of us became Catholic. The San Rafael Dominican Sisters taught catechism at St. Gertrude’s. As I grew older I would help sister and later would visit her at the convent. Sister was a good friend of our Sister Paula McCarthy. She told me about the Sisters of the Holy Family. At times I would put a towel across my forehead and hold it and look in the mirror, secretly.
I graduated from high school and went to work at various places as a telephone operator and at an office in San Francisco. I went to daily Mass at noon and even became engaged! I wasn’t satisfied…. Finally, I broke the engagement and remembered what the Dominican sister had told me about Holy Family in San Francisco. I was 23 years old and made the decision to ring the front door bell of the Holy Family in San Francisco. After four days, I decided I didn’t like the convent life with dark walls, bare tables, no talking, etc. So on the fourth day I told myself, after I wash my dishes I am telling Sister Borromea Russo that I am leaving. I stood there in line, holding my dishes, struggling with my thoughts of departure, and suddenly a strong sense of God’s person came over me, so I said to myself, “I guess I’ll stay.” I wouldn’t tell this story to anyone for years!
It is now 54 years after my decision to ring the front door bell in San Francisco. The rest is history in the making.